Dorothy S. Kratz, 94, kindergarten teacher

January 29, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Dorothy Seward Kratz, a retired city kindergarten teacher who taught in the same Park Heights school - and classroom - for 40 years, died in her sleep Saturday at Country Companion, a Taneytown assisted-living home. The former Randallstown resident was 94.

Former pupils said Miss Kratz introduced school to generations of Northwest Baltimore children who learned their ABCs and numbers from her at the old Louisa May Alcott School No. 59 at Reisterstown Road and Keyworth Avenue.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Poplar Grove Street, she was a 1926 graduate of Western High School and earned her teaching diploma two years later at what is now Towson University.

Her first assignment was at Arlington Elementary at Rogers and Magnolia avenues, before her second - and what became permanent - posting in Room A on the first floor at School 59. She taught there for 40 years, beginning in September 1930.

"She was just what a kindergarten teacher should be," said Audrey Glassman, a fellow Louisa May Alcott faculty member. "She got her students off to a good start because she was such a welcoming, loving person. It was her students' first experience at a school - there was no preschool in that era. She gave her children a good foundation and a feeling for starting school."

Mrs. Glassman recalled that for special celebrations - such as Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day and Easter - Miss Kratz had her pupils dress in homemade crepe-paper costumes and march around the school. "There was nobody who was more sweet and caring to her children," she said.

Baltimore schools were racially segregated for much of Miss Kratz's first 25 years. In the mid-1950s, African-American children were enrolled at School 59 for the first time as the surrounding neighborhood began a rapid demographic change.

"She dealt with race issues very well. Skin color did not matter to her," said Honey Book, a member of her 1955 kindergarten class who lives in Owings Mills. "She just loved every child as her own."

"When I think of her I recall a slender, blond woman with glasses," said Elaine Schwartz Morgan, a former pupil. "We had bank day every Friday in the gym. People brought a nickel, a dime or a quarter. My sister and I brought a dollar. Your deposit was written in ink in a red bank book. We were taught to save."

"She was a fantastic person, interesting, lovable, recalled by so many of her former students," said Nancy Jane Reppe, a friend and former neighbor. "While we were out together, people would come up and ask, `Do you remember me?'"

Mrs. Reppe's husband, Robert J. Reppe, added, "She was intelligent. She knew how to handle people - and not only children. She had a gift. She could reason with her kids and not just say, `You can't do that.'"

During summer vacations, Miss Kratz, who did not like to fly, traveled to Europe on steamships. While traveling, she collected pictures and other objects she used to decorate her classroom and home. She also played the piano and sang.

"She played the piano well," said LaVerne Logue of Silver Run, an aide at the home where Miss Kratz spent her last eight years. "She liked to play hymns for her friends here." Friends said she last played the piano the week of her death.

Services are private.

Miss Kratz has no immediate survivors.

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