Ann Thomas Merritt, 70, director of athletics at Dundalk High School

January 11, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Ann Thomas Merritt, former chairwoman of the health and physical education departments at Dundalk High School, where she had also been athletic director, was killed in an automobile accident Monday on Interstate 695 near Parkville. She was 70.

Shortly after retiring in 1984, she returned to Dundalk High School, where she worked part-time until her death as assistant principal in the school's evening education program. The program offers classes to students expelled from regular daytime school and assists them in obtaining a high school diploma.

Ms. Merritt was born in Baltimore and spent her entire life in Dundalk. She was a 1949 graduate of Dundalk High School and earned a bachelor's degree in health and physical education from East Stroudsburg (Pa.) University in 1953. In 1963, she earned a master's in education from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Her prowess as a field hockey player began in her youth. She later was a member of the first team fielded by the Baltimore Field Hockey Association and on the first and second squads of the Southeast Field Hockey Association, which selects its players from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. She later served as president of both organizations.

She began her career teaching physical education in 1953 at North Point Junior High School, then transferred to Dundalk High School, where she taught and coached several sports, including field hockey.

During summer months in the 1950s and 1960s, Ms. Merritt also served as a director at coed summer camps in Decatur, Mich., and Green Lake, Wis.

In 1962, she was promoted to chairwoman of the physical education department and served as athletic director at Sparrows Point High School.

Ms. Merritt, who designed physical education programs that were models for other schools and school systems, was popular with school board members, faculty and students.

"She led by example and with a quiet energy that appealed to her players and motivated her staff," said Sandy Magsmen, who coached field hockey with her. "She certainly made me a better teacher and coach."

Jim McCoach, who coached track in the 1960s at Sparrows Point High School, said, "In a way, she ruined my career. Every school I went to, I looked for another Ann Merritt. I never found one."

In 1971, Ms. Merritt seized the opportunity to return to her alma mater, where she was chairwoman of the health and physical education departments at Dundalk High School. And as the school's athletic director, she coached the field hockey team and coordinated the programs of 23 coaches.

"She was an organizer who did it ever so neatly. It's amazing what that woman could do," said Pat Mongan, a colleague and friend of 38 years who coached softball at Dundalk High.

"Our staff got along well because of Ann. She had it all as a professional, but she was much more than a teacher and a coach. She was a good friend who enhanced the lives of everyone around her and brought out the best in them," she said.

"More than anything, she was a mentor in the purest sense -- a true inspiration to students and staff. She was admired as a woman of wisdom and wit, and was loved for her terrific sense of humor," said Colleen Barry, a fellow teacher.

In 1984, she became the first woman elected to the Dundalk Community Sports Hall of Fame and in 1989 was named a Dundalk High School Distinguished Alumna for her lifetime achievements and service to the community.

She enjoyed working in the garden of her home on Liberty Parkway. An expert calligrapher, she operated a small business where she created personalized invitations, calendars, bookmarks and other items.

"Losing Ann is a huge personal loss to many family members and friends in the community as well," said Ms. Mongan.

Services were held Friday.

She is survived by her four sisters, Mary M. Hicks of White Marsh, Lois C. Merritt and Elsye R. Merritt, both of Towson, and LaRue M. Lating of Dundalk; and many nieces and nephews.

Memorial donations may be made to the Ann Thomas Merritt Scholarship Fund of Dundalk High School, 1901 Delvale Ave., Dundalk 21222.

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