Mary A. Winterling

The elementary school principal was beloved by the community and applauded for her dedication

March 09, 2009|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

Mary Ann Winterling, a revered principal who endeared herself to students and their families in her 35 years at a West Baltimore elementary school, died of cancer Tuesday at her sister's Rosedale home. She was 65.

Under her leadership, the Bentalou Elementary School was named a Maryland Blue Ribbon School in 2003. Her colleagues said at her funeral Saturday that they hoped the school could be renamed in her honor.

Born in Baltimore and raised above her parents' Foster Avenue restaurant, she occasionally helped to seat patrons and take orders on weekends. She attended Sacred Heart of Jesus Parochial School and was a 1961 Institute of Notre Dame graduate. She earned a degree at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland and a master's degree from the Johns Hopkins University.

She joined the Baltimore City Department of Education and initially taught at School 47, Hampstead Hill, at Linwood and Eastern avenues. In 1974 she was assigned to Bentalou Elementary School in the 200 block of N. Bentalou St. in West Baltimore, where she remained until her death. She began as a vice principal and was named head of the school in 1980.

"She is now welcoming the children of the first generation who were bused there in the 1970s and prides herself on running a no-nonsense school with a family atmosphere that welcomes parental involvement," said a 1998 Sun story on the history of bussing to achieve racial integration.

Joyce Kavanagh, a friend who is a retired Harriet Tubman School principal, recalled how Miss Winterling stopped at yard sales to find books for her children to read. She also distributed stuffed animals as rewards to students.

"The community loved Mary Ann as a mother hen figure," she said. "The harder she worked her teachers, the more they performed."

In 2000, Miss Winterling won media attention when 27 of her third-graders read more than 500 books in a little more than a month. They received gifts and $1,000 for book purchases from the Saturn Corp.

Christolyne Buie, a colleague in the Southwest area schools region, said, "There was just one Mary Ann Winterling. She was an outstanding school leader. She was highly regarded throughout the system. Her staff loved her. On the personal side, she was an uplifting person - very spiritual - who was always upbeat during trying times."

Del. Melvin L. Stukes said "the community would go to war for her, she was so beloved."

She was diagnosed with cancer 15 years ago and often took treatment Monday mornings - and returned to her office in the afternoon.

"She always said to me, 'I have cancer, but cancer doesn't have me,' " said her sister Leah W. Bark of Rosedale.

In her free time, Miss Winterling liked to make trips to Chestertown but would pull off the road for yard sales where she might find something for the school. Until it closed several years ago, she was a regular patron at Marconi's Restaurant. She also had a lifelong interest in Benjamin Franklin and collected Franklin memorabilia.

A Mass was offered Saturday at St. Clement Maria Hofbauer Roman Catholic Church in eastern Baltimore County. A school bus carried parents and children from West Baltimore to the service.

"She was an original design created by Almighty God," said the Rev. Victor Folks, pastor of the Greater Church of the Risen Savior on Bentalou Street, who was a speaker at the funeral.

In addition to her sister, survivors include two nephews.

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