Bertha Goodman, 78, nursing teacher, dance and music enthusiast

July 04, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Bertha T. Austin Goodman, a nurse, educator and community activist who maintained a lifelong interest in the arts, died of bone cancer Friday at her home in West Baltimore. She was 78.

Born in Savannah, Ga., she moved to New Jersey as a child. She attended Harlem's School of Nursing in New York and quickly became involved in the cultural life of the 1940s.

"It was her first time on her own, and she wanted to try everything," said a daughter, Cheryl T. Goodman of Baltimore. "She learned to play saxophone from jazz musicians; took dance class with legendary divas; took horseback riding and tennis lessons; and was part of acting workshops with Harry Belafonte, Ossie Davis and Sidney Poitier."

She also met Meredith McCoy Goodman, a pathologist, whom she married in 1951. The couple moved to Baltimore, where he was employed by the state and she found work in nursing. He died in 1986.

"It was not difficult for her to find work, but she was not always accepted as a black nurse," her daughter said. "But she was good at what she did, and she won people over. She ... was known for her skills and dependability in the operating room."

Mrs. Goodman became a nursing instructor at Provident Hospital in 1952. She later joined the Baltimore City school system, teaching nursing and science at Frederick Douglass High School, Booker T. Washington Junior High School and Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School. She became director of nursing education for the school system and helped develop the nursing curriculum for the vocational department. She retired in 1984.

"Even when she was teaching, she wore her nurse uniform and cap," her daughter said. "She managed to combine her interest in nursing with her love for teaching. When she retired, she volunteered at several homes for senior citizens."

Mrs. Goodman continued her love of dance, enrolling in modern dance, yoga and belly dancing classes well into her retirement. She insisted that all four of her daughters study the arts from a young age.

"We were all in dance class by age 3 and arts and crafts as soon as we could walk," Ms. Goodman said. "All of us are in arts careers today."

Retirement also gave Mrs. Goodman a chance to travel and more time to devote to the Garrison Boulevard United Neighbors Association. She revived the group's spring festival, serving as its chairwoman in 2000 and 2001.

"The festival pulls everyone together," Ms. Goodman said. "It has grant funding now and will continue to grow."

During her illness, Mrs. Goodman remained active in her community, directing its newsletter and volunteering as a block captain.

"She came from such meager beginnings and led such a full life," Ms. Goodman said. "She achieved everything she wanted."

For nearly 50 years, Mrs. Goodman was a member of Emmanuel Christian Community Church, serving as superintendent of its Sunday school and working with its Concerned Volunteers and Golden Circle.

Services will be at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow at the church at Lanvale Street and Carrollton Avenue.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include three other daughters, Yvonne R. Hawkins, Mereida D. Goodman and Lori S. Goodman, all of Baltimore; a sister, Thomasina Ashley of East Orange, N.J.; and three grandchildren.

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