Norma Elizabeth Lewis Felder, a former physical education and modern-dance instructor at Carver Vocational Technical High School, died of complications from multiple strokes Wednesday at her home in Northwest Baltimore. She was 78.
Born Norma Lewis in Yorktown, Va., she moved to Baltimore with her parents and two siblings when she was 5 years old.
She graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in 1942 and earned her degree in physical education in 1947 from what is now Morgan State University.
While in college, she joined Delta Sigma Theta, a sorority predominantly of African-American women that works to encourage academic excellence and philanthropy.
In 1950, she married Lorenzo "Bus" Felder, her sweetheart since the ninth grade. The couple would have celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary Sunday.
As a girl, Mrs. Felder dreamed of dancing in New York - she even had picked a stage name: Norma La Fontain. Instead, she turned to teaching at Carver in the early 1950s and organizing elaborate recitals for her students.
"She was an outstanding teacher," said Charles C. Robinson, who worked in the physical education department at Carver with Mrs. Felder for more than a decade. "She just loved working with students and would go out of her way to help them."
She also was highly competitive, regularly beating Mr. Robinson in badminton games.
"She used to make me bow down to her when she won," he said.
In 1970, Mrs. Felder suffered her first stroke, which paralyzed her right side and forced her to retire from teaching.
"If it was hard on her, it never showed," said Jacqueline Williams, a niece who lives in Baltimore. "She went to driving school and learned how to drive with her left foot on the gas. ... She still went to dances and got out on the dance floor. She was such an example to anybody that knew her."
Mrs. Williams moved in with the Felders when she was 15 years old to help after Mrs. Felder's stroke.
"But she helped me more than I ever could have helped her," Mrs. Williams said. "She was like a mother to me."
Mrs. Felder was a longtime member of the Morgan State University Alumni Association, and a member of the Big Sisters Club and the Howard L. Cornish Alumni Chapter of Morgan.
"She and her husband were quite social," Mrs. Williams said. "She was always the center of everything. ... She had such an exquisite sense of style, she always stood out."
That style transferred to interior decorating, which she pursued with a passion, hunting for perfect French Provincial finds and taking Mrs. Williams with her.
"One of my fondest memories is just sailing along in Aunt Norma's gold Cadillac DeVille on one of our jaunts," she said.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Union Baptist Church, 1219 Druid Hill Ave.
In addition to her husband and niece, Mrs. Felder is survived by another niece, Kim R. Leftwich of Baltimore.