Rev. Virginia Leitzel

Social studies and history teacher at Dundalk High who went on to become an ordained Methodist minister

March 16, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

The Rev. Virginia H. Leitzel, a retired Baltimore County school teacher who later became an ordained Methodist minister, died Friday from complications of Alzheimer's disease at Gilchrist Hospice Care. She was 84.

Virginia Doris Mae Hines was born at the Fort Howard Veterans Administration Hospital in eastern Baltimore County and raised in Sparrows Point.

After graduating from Sparrows Point High School in 1942, she enrolled at what was then Western Maryland College, where she earned a bachelor's degree in English and history in 1946.

She later earned a master's degree in education from what is now Loyola University Maryland in 1973.

In 1948, she married John Leitzel, an insurance man who established Leitzel Insurance Agency in 1953 at Wise Avenue and Old North Point Road.

Mrs. Leitzel's career as an educator began in 1950, when she taught in public schools in Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties before going in 1964 to Dundalk Junior High School, where she taught history and English for two years.

She spent 21 years teaching social studies, history and psychology courses at Dundalk High School before retiring in 1987.

"I try to make history live for my students," Mrs. Leitzel told The Dundalk Eagle in a 1983 interview.

She also stressed not only the great historical events and personalities that shaped the development of the United States but also the contributions of the nation's everyday citizens.

"History is little people like us," she told the newspaper.

Another teaching tool she introduced in the classroom was genealogical research whereby students could place their own ancestors in historical context.

In 1983, Mrs. Leitzel was selected as one of four outstanding Baltimore County U.S. history teachers.

After retiring, Mrs. Leitzel decided to pursue a second career as a minister.

"Her father was killed by a passing automobile in 1942 and with the help of Rev. Emmette R. Spencer, she went to Western Maryland College. She had never forgotten his kindness," said a son, John Spence Leitzel of Dundalk.

Mrs. Leitzel enrolled at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington and, while in seminary, served as a student minister during the early 1990s at Canton United Methodist Church.

After earning a master's degree in divinity in 1993, she was ordained a deacon, and later served in the Susquehanna District.

She became an elder in the Methodist church in 1995, and her two charges that she served simultaneously were Hopewell United Methodist Church and Wesleyan United Methodist Church in Havre de Grace from 1993 to 1996, when she had to step down because of the mandatory retirement age of 70.

The Rev. Laurie E. Gates-Ward, who is lead pastor of Patapsco Lodge Forest Cooperative Parish in eastern Baltimore County, was a longtime friend.

"She was an extremely generous woman and a wonderful teacher both in her career and as a pastor to which she brought what she had learned in life. She came to it late in life, but had a great passion for the ministry," said Mrs. Gates-Ward.

"I came here 10 years ago and she gave me whatever assistance she could. She had the sweetest spirit of anyone I've ever known and was loved by all who knew her," she said.

Mrs. Leitzel wrote, produced and performed dramatic monologues on several historic figures from Methodism such as Susan Wesley, known as the "Mother of Methodism," whose two sons were John and Charles Wesley, and Frances Janes Crosby - better known as Fanny Crosby - who was a poet and composer of Protestant Christian hymns.

The longtime Wise Avenue resident was an avid visitor of historical sites and a genealogist.

She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Mrs. Leitzel was a longtime member of Patapsco United Methodist Church, 7800 Wise Ave., where services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday.

In addition to her husband and son, Mrs. Leitzel is survived by another son, James A. Leitzel of Chicago; two daughters, Janet L. Leitzel of Reisterstown and Susan L. Kelly of Bel Air; a sister, Florence Tidd of Levittown, Pa.; and three grandchildren.

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