William Camille Pierne, 57, taught special-education students in city

May 24, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

William Camille Pierne, a city public school educator who spent his 30-year career trying to enrich the lives of his special-education students, died of cancer Wednesday at his Bel Air home. He was 57.

Mr. Pierne taught special-education students at the Claremont School on Erdman Avenue and Venable Senior High School. He spent the last decade of his career at the William S. Baer School in Northwest Baltimore until retiring in 2000 because of failing health.

"These were multihandicapped students who were mentally fragile and emotionally disturbed," said his wife of six months, the former Nancy Saunders, who also teaches at Baer.

"He took them into the therapeutic swimming pool, changed their diapers, made sure their wheelchairs were clean and helped them with their physical therapy. He made sure they were clean. He'd give them parties," she said.

"He'd spend several thousand dollars each year, money he took from his own pocket, which he gave to his students so they could have the experience of buying something. He tried to give them the best opportunities possible."

Mr. Pierne, who loved the music of the 1960s, often used it in his classes to entertain and teach his students.

When new teachers arrived at the school, it was Mr. Pierne who helped them adjust.

"He was a Type A personality, a hard worker and a perfectionist. He was also known for his excellent paperwork and recordkeeping," Mrs. Pierne said.

Shari A. Johnson, who has been principal of the Baer School for 20 years, said: "He was always so kind and gentle with the children. He worked well with the low-functioning students. He had tremendous patience and would go over concepts again and again until they understood them. He worked hard helping them achieve their goals. He was innovative and creative."

Mr. Pierne never missed a day of school, despite being diagnosed with cancer seven years ago.

"We suffered a loss along with Nancy," Dr. Johnson said. "He'd always go the extra mile for his students. We really feel his loss because he was one of our family. We just hope that the world knows what Bill accomplished in his life."

Mr. Pierne was born in Baltimore, raised in Fallston and graduated in 1965 from Bel Air High School. He had planned to study for the ministry but later earned a degree in education from what was then Towson State College in 1969. During the 1970s, he earned a master's degree in education from then-Coppin State College.

He was a member and former Sunday school superintendent at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Bel Air.

He was an avid bowler and gardener.

Services were held Saturday in Abingdon.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Pierne is survived by his mother, Marydella Funk Pierne of Bel Air; two brothers, Robert Andrew Pierne of Edgewood and James Gilbert Pierne of Hagerstown; and several nephews.

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