Ethel B. Novey

[Age 95] Her lifelong love of learning led her to master Hebrew at 86.

May 20, 2007|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Reporter

Ethel Baer Novey, a teacher, arts patron and lifelong learner, died May 13 of heart failure at her home in Roland Park Place. She was 95.

A few years ago, she had completed a two-year international program on Jewish religious perspectives, history and issues. That came after she had mastered Hebrew in classes at Chizuk Amuno Congregation in Pikesville.

"With her wit, charm and intelligence, she has left all of us lessons to learn from," said cantor Emanuel C. Perlman.

Born Ethel Baer in Pacolet, S.C., she spoke with a gentle Southern drawl the rest of her life and corresponded with one of her teachers for nearly seven decades.

"They really liked each other," said a son, Michael Novey of Baltimore. The teacher was "a small-town character who wrote about her life and teaching."

The Baer family moved to Baltimore in the early 1920s. Mrs. Novey graduated from Western High School in 1929 and two years later earned a teaching certificate from the Maryland State Normal School, now Towson University.

"My grandparents sparked a lifelong love of learning in their children," Mr. Novey said. "Despite the difficulties of the Depression, they were determined their children would be educated. Their two sons earned Ph.D.'s, and their daughters were teachers."

In 1937, Ethel and Julius Novey were married. He practiced law and she taught elementary grades in the Baltimore public schools. She left her teaching position to raise her children.

The couple joined the Print and Drawing Society of the Baltimore Museum of Art, often hosting meetings at their North Charles Street home. Members of the group helped one another become more knowledgeable about art and often sponsored speakers at the museum.

After her husband's death in 1973, Mrs. Novey enrolled in the continuing education program at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland and earned a bachelor's degree.

"She was quite brilliant, incredibly friendly and very open," said Stephen Vicchio, professor of philosophy.

With encouragement from her grandchildren, Mrs. Novey, at 86 older than most of her classmates' parents, mastered Hebrew reading in the adult bat mitzvah program at Chizuk Amuno.

"Everybody felt so good to be in her presence," Mr. Perlman said. "For many of us, it was a transference. She became our grandmother. The Novey family shared her with our entire community."

Services were held Tuesday at Sol Levinson & Bros.

Other survivors include a son, Lawrence Novey of Washington; and five grandchildren.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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