Terah Comegys

[ Age 73 ] She spent more than 40 years as a teacher and librarian who displayed a soft spot for children in trouble

November 05, 2006|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,sun reporter

Terah Ann Comegys, an avid reader who spent more than 30 years as a librarian in Baltimore's public schools, died Tuesday of dementia at the Augsburg Lutheran Home and Village in Pikesville. The longtime Baltimore resident was 73.

Born Terah Ann Whitten in Chattanooga, Tenn., she graduated from high school in Abingdon, Va., and from what was then Morristown Normal and Industrial College in Morristown, Tenn. Members of her family founded the historically black college, which is now part of Knoxville College. An aunt and uncle, officials at the school, signed her diploma.

In 1953, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and library science from Clark College in Atlanta. Later, she pursued additional studies at Coppin State and George Washington universities.

She married Cooper Dorsey Comegys Jr. in 1954. The marriage ended in divorce. He died in 1997.

Ms. Comegys' career included jobs in the public library systems of Kalamazoo, Mich., Washington and Baltimore. She also taught reading in Washington and Baltimore public schools. For more than 30 years, she was a librarian in city schools, working at Gwynns Falls Junior High School (No. 91), Western High School, Joseph C. Briscoe High School and Southwestern High School, from which she retired in the late 1990s.

"My mother was an avid reader," recalled her daughter, Donna Lynne Comegys, an attorney in Baltimore. "She read every day. She read book after book after book. It took her places. It was how she traveled."

Her mother also loved art and music and dance, she recalled. The younger Ms. Comegys said she remembered that when she was a girl, she would go with her mother to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington every week to do sketches. Her mother also encouraged her to take dance lessons.

When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led his March on Washington in 1963, Ms. Comegys welcomed strangers who had traveled long distances into her home for meals and showers. Her daughter remembered an assembly line for making bologna sandwiches to feed those who had made the journey.

"She was a freedom fighter," her daughter said, "and not a quiet one. She was out there marching, holding her sign."

Ms. Comegys had a soft spot for children in need, her relatives said. She took many children under her wing, giving them advice and guidance they weren't getting at home. She considered one of those children, Avon Jones, her "chosen son," and he became part of the family.

"She had a heart for kids who were in trouble or in need of an adult role model," said her niece, Carole Boston Weatherford of High Point, N.C.

Ms. Weatherford said she also remembers her aunt as a "fabulous storyteller."

"She could weave a tale like no one else," she said.

Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Union Memorial United Methodist Church, 2500 Harlem Road, Baltimore.

In addition to her daughter and niece, she is survived by a sister, Carolyn W. Boston of Baltimore, and a granddaughter.

stephanie.desmon@baltsun.com

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