Geraldine M. Ringgold, 75, teacher, soprano

October 02, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Geraldine M. Ringgold, a retired city teacher and singer who refused to let a stroke interfere with her lifestyle, died in her sleep Sunday at the Clem & Doll Assisted Living Inc. facility in Randallstown. She was 75.

She was born Geraldine Manokey in Philadelphia and as a young child moved to Baltimore, where she was raised by an uncle and aunt in their West Madison Avenue home.

"When she was born, she was a 7-month-old preemie. She fought tuberculosis as a child and won," said her daughter, Dr. Sharon D. Harmon, a Baltimore podiatrist.

After graduating from Frederick Douglass High School in 1947, she worked as a nurse for a Baltimore physician. She was married in 1959 to William Leon Ringgold Sr., a postal supervisor, and the couple lived many years on Derby Manor Drive in Northwest Baltimore. Mr. Ringgold died in 1992.

After her three children were grown, Mrs. Ringgold earned a teaching certificate from Towson State College in the early 1970s. She began teaching in city schools in 1976.

She taught at Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. elementary schools, and at William H. Lemmel Middle School.

In 1990, Mrs. Ringgold suffered a severe stroke that partially paralyzed the left side of her body. She retired in 1991.

But family members said she continued to remain active.

"Armed with her zest for life, she was able to return to shopping, cooking, driving and other favorite activities," her daughter said.

Mrs. Ringgold sang as a soprano and was a lifelong member of the Wesleyan Choir at Metropolitan United Methodist Church. An experienced soloist, she had a voice described as "melodious and spiritual."

She performed for service members at Fort Meade as well as for inmates at the House of Corrections in Jessup and residents of the Montrose School for Girls. She also sang at churches throughout the state and at Constitution Hall in Washington, family members said.

"She was an amazing woman, and she'd drive herself to church every Sunday. We reserved a parking place out front for her because we knew she'd be there," said the Rev. Jeremiah G. Williams, pastor of Metropolitan United Methodist Church.

"She was a very quiet and humble person who had a wonderful spirit, yet never sought the spotlight. And when she became ill, she exerted a certain steadfastness. She refused to let it stop her, and in doing so she became a model for others," Mr. Williams said. "She was a living example and proved that you didn't have to give in to it - that you could go on and still do your work."

She was active in her close-knit neighborhood, where she was known as "Momma Ringgold," her daughter said.

"When she was teaching, she looked for children who were needy and made sure their families had food baskets at Thanksgiving and toys at Christmas," her daughter said.

Services will be held at 11:30 a.m. Monday at Metropolitan United Methodist Church, 1121 W. Lanvale St.

In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Ringgold is survived by two sons, William Leon Ringgold Jr. of Baltimore and Steven Lamont Ringgold of Woodbine; and five grandchildren.

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