Marion B. Van Kleeck, a retired Roland Park Country School elementary teacher known for her warm and welcoming demeanor during her more than two-decade career there, died Monday at her Murray Hill home where she was recuperating from hip surgery. She was 78.
She was born Marion Dushane Penniman Barker in Baltimore and raised in the Poplar Hill section of Roland Park. She was a 1945 graduate of Bryn Mawr School and made her debut that year at the Bachelors Cotillon.
After earning a bachelor's degree at Wellesley College in 1949, she returned to Baltimore and joined the faculty of Bryn Mawr, where she taught until 1959. She was married in 1955 to Richard Reynolds Van Kleeck, a Merrill Lynch stockbroker.
After raising her children, Mrs. Van Kleeck returned to teaching at Roland Park Country in 1971.
"Marion was gracious and quiet-natured but made an impact. She was a wonderful woman who loved teaching young children, and in her calm and caring way helped them begin a lifetime of learning," said Jean W. Brune, Roland Park's head of school. "The kids loved her, and so did the parents."
"She was the most wonderful teacher and had a tremendous insight into children. She loved them, and they knew it," said Barrie G. Sigler, who heads Roland Park's lower school.
"She was a wonderfully organized and creative teacher, and was a very dynamic person. When the students were wild and goofy, she never had to raise her voice. She'd say, `Ladies, it's time to be quiet,' and they would listen. She was never gushy with them," Ms. Sigler said.
Mrs. Van Kleeck left teaching in the early 1990s to care for her husband, who died in 1993.
She returned to teaching after his death and even though she formally retired in 1994, continued substitute teaching at Roland Park Country for two more years.
"After her husband's death, all she wanted to do was come back to the children. She had a true love of little people," Ms. Sigler said.
Mrs. Van Kleeck was an avid gardener -- particularly of roses -- also enjoyed attending concerts of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
The longtime Poplar Hill resident moved to Murray Hill last year. She was a member of the Junior League and the L'Hirondelle Club in Ruxton.
Mrs. Van Kleeck was a member of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, where a memorial service was held Thursday.
Survivors include a son, Peter Van Kleeck of Towson; a daughter, Harriet P. Van Kleeck of Ruxton; two brothers, George P. Barker of Columbia and Francis M. Barker of Williamstown, Mass.; a granddaughter; and two great-grandchildren.