Gladys C. Stavely, 100, took part in fort's first Human Flag ceremony

August 18, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Gladys C. Stavely, a retired Baltimore public school educator who was thought to be one of the last surviving participants of the original Human Flag ceremony staged at Fort McHenry in 1914, died of a urinary infection Sunday at the Wesley Home in Mount Washington. She was 100.

She was born Gladys Cooper and raised in an East Baltimore rowhouse at 1624 Washington St.

Mrs. Stavely was 10 and a pupil at public school No. 99, the Columbus School on Washington Street, when she joined with 6,500 other Baltimore schoolchildren to form a human flag at Fort McHenry. Dressed in red, white and blue, they gathered at the fort for the event that marked the 100th anniversary of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

She was attending Eastern High School the day World War I ended.

"I was at the old Eastern High School [at North Avenue and Broadway] when the Armistice was called in 1918. We were all hanging out the windows and marched across North Avenue and down Charles [Street]. Everybody gathered at the Sun Building," Mrs. Stavely told The Sun in a 1994 article about the then eight known surviving participants of the original Human Flag ceremony.

After graduating from Eastern in 1922, she studied at the then-Towson State Normal School, where she earned a teaching certificate in 1924.

For the next 40 years, she taught kindergarten and second-graders at Hampden Elementary School, at 37th and Chestnut streets. She retired in 1964.

"Everyone who reads the newspaper from Hampden will certainly remember Mrs. Stavely. She was very popular," said Alan H. Stocksdale, a partner in the Towson law firm of Stocksdale & Cvach and a former pupil of Mrs. Stavely.

Mr. Stocksdale, who is now 80 and semiretired, recalled entering her kindergarten class in the fall of 1929.

"I was 5 and thought she quite an old lady when she was actually really quite a young lady. She really was a very pleasant and kind teacher," Mr. Stocksdale said.

"In those days, my father had an elaborate Christmas garden, and I invited her to come to my home and see it," Mr. Stocksdale said. "My parents became good friends with her and later her husband. My father, who was a lawyer, became their lawyer. And after he died, I took over."

In 1930, she married Albert G. Stavely, a Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. salesman. Until his death in 1971, the couple lived on 32nd Street in Hampden.

Afterward, Mrs. Stavely moved to the Rodgers Forge Apartments, where she lived until moving to Church Home and Hospital in 1985.

"For 30 years, she volunteered every Friday at Church Home Hospital," said a cousin, Harriet Bode of Jarrettsville.

And her former pupils never forgot her.

"She had letters and cards from students, friends and family from all over the United States," Mrs. Bode said.

For years, Mrs. Stavely visited London frequently and enjoyed traveling aboard such liners as the Queen Elizabeth II, SS United States and Sagafiord.

Mrs. Stavely also recorded significant events and reflections on her various travels around the world in a leather-bound book. She also kept clippings that interested her from magazines and newspapers.

"She was always interested in what was going on. She had jotted down such things in her book as `July 30, 1952. Chesapeake Bay Bridge opened,'" Mrs. Bode said. "In the front of the book, she had written, `This book was made and bound by my father, Charles W. Cooper, who was an apprentice bookbinder 1886-1887.'"

After Church Hospital closed in 1999, Mrs. Stately moved to the Wesley Home.

Family members ascribed her longevity to moderation.

"She never overate and liked buttermilk. And she also liked to drink a beer once in a while," Mrs. Bode said.

Mrs. Stately was a communicant of St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Providence Road near Towson.

Graveside services will be held at 11:30 a.m. today at Unity Washington Cemetery in Hurlock. A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Wesley Home, 2211 W. Rogers Ave.

Survivors include nieces, nephews and several other cousins.

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