William H. Curtis, 78, Baltimore County teacher

April 21, 2005|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

William Howard Curtis, who taught math, science, shop and architectural drawing in several Baltimore County high schools during a career of more than three decades, died Tuesday of myelodysplasia, a rare bone marrow disease, at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The longtime Freeland resident was 78.

Mr. Curtis was born and raised in the New York City borough of Queens. An accomplished athlete, he played baseball, basketball and football in high school.

After graduating in 1944, he enlisted in the Marine Corps but after six months switched to the Army.

"While serving in the Army in Panama, he pitched against Jackie Robinson, who was then playing for the Montreal Royals," said Mr. Curtis' wife of 19 years, the former Margaret Jones, a retired Baltimore County English teacher.

After a stint in the merchant marine and tryouts with the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants baseball teams, he moved in 1952 to Delmar and, while working on his father's farm, earned a bachelor's degree in 1956 in science and math from what was then State Teachers College at Salisbury. He later received an M.S. degree from the University of Maryland.

Mr. Curtis began teaching math and science in 1956 at Sparrows Point High, had teaching assignments during the 1960s at Franklin High and Pikesville High, and in 1969 joined the faculty of Hereford High School. He also coached high school basketball and tennis.

"He was a quiet, laid-back sort of guy whose experiences were vast," said Dorothy E. Hardin, who was teaching at Hereford at the time and is now principal of Pikesville High. "He was really valued by the students, who felt he did more than just teach them as he prepared them for adulthood. He was a kind person with whom they felt comfortable, a good teacher and a tremendous coach," she said.

"I was his assistant coach at Hereford, and we played tennis together on Sunday mornings in Hampstead for many years. I cherished his friendship," said Mark V. Trotta, who teaches math and special education classes there.

"He challenged his students. I was always very impressed with the houses his students designed and later built with popsicle sticks. He was so proud of his kids' work that he had them on exhibition in his classroom," Mr. Trotta said. "He took them to a high level and made sure that they performed well. It was the same thing he did as tennis coach. He was always there if they had problems."

Mr. Curtis was succeeded by Mr. Trotta as tennis coach in 1984 and retired in 1988, but he retained a keen interest in the tennis team. "He'd call me and we'd talk about various players and the team. I will miss his counsel," Mr. Trotta said.

During his retirement, Mr. Curtis built a shed on his property to warehouse his books and papers and a potting shed for his wife, an avid gardener. He also played golf.

"We golfed regularly together, and on the way home we'd always listen to swing music from World War II - Stan Kenton and Woody Herman - music from the years when we were young," said friend William A. Kaufman, a retired Lever Bros. distribution manger.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Lemmon Funeral Home, 10 W. Padonia Road, Timonium.

He is also survived by three daughters, Lisa Curtis Macsherry of Hillendale, Julianne Costello of Pueblo, Colo., and Laurie C. Roe of Westminster; a brother, George Curtis of Centreville, Va.; and five grandchildren.

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