Thelma P. D. Lombardi, 80, longtime reading specialist


Thelma P. D. Lombardi, a retired reading specialist whose teaching career spanned more than four decades, died of a heart attack Sunday at St. Joseph Medical Center. The longtime Timonium resident was 80.

Thelma Pucci DeJacquin was born in Baltimore and raised in Roland Park. She was a 1944 graduate of Seton High School and earned a bachelor's degree in English literature and the classics from St. Joseph's College in Emmitsburg. In 1977, she earned a master's degree in reading from the Johns Hopkins University.

Mrs. Lombardi taught at Northwood Elementary School from 1950 to 1955, when she took time off to raise her family. She returned to teaching in 1962 when she joined the faculty of the old Gateway School in the 800 block of Park Ave. She also taught deaf and speech-impaired children in an experimental school at Hopkins Hospital.

In 1969, she began teaching at Ridgely Middle School in Lutherville, and headed the school's reading department from 1973 until her retirement in 1992.

She also worked in the mid-1970s with vision therapists at the Baltimore Academy for Behavioral Optometry, helping students learn to read.

"She had a great reputation in her field and was the type of person who was both gracious and kind. She was able to put children at ease, yet challenge them so they could find the best in themselves," said Lucille Fieldman, a retired art teacher and longtime friend. "You don't learn that in education classes in college. It's a characteristic that you have, and she had it."

Mrs. Lombardi worked with a range of students, from the gifted and talented to those who were autistic, dyslexic, deaf or had vision problems.

"She was my inspiration, and because of my mother, I'm getting my master's in reading. She took great pride in her work," said a daughter, Janice Lombardi Shipman, a kindergarten teacher from Whitehouse Station, N.J. "She loved being a teacher and getting kids reading. To her, it was an awesome experience, and she enjoyed every minute of it."

After leaving Ridgely Middle, Mrs. Lombardi tutored students privately and taught part time at Crossland Latin School in Northeast Baltimore. The school, established by her daughter-in-law, Betsy Caulfield Lombardi, closed in 2002.

"She was a soaring intellect who had a heart of gold," said her son, John A. Lombardi of Baltimore.

Her philanthropic interests included St. Martin's Home in Catonsville and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

Mrs. Lombardi was an accomplished cook who enjoyed preparing Italian dishes, baking cakes and making desserts. She liked listening to music, solving crossword puzzles and discussing politics.

She was a communicant of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, 103 Church Lane, Cockeysville, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11:30 a.m. today.

Also surviving are her husband of 52 years, Anthony J. Lombardi, who retired from the purchasing and supply division of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; another daughter, Patricia Lombardi Schneider of Draper, Utah; and a granddaughter.

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