Robert Neale Allman, a retired Baltimore County public school teacher who never lost his love for his students or enthusiasm for jazz and big band music, died Saturday of leukemia at Carroll Lutheran Village.
The former longtime Reisterstown resident was 81.
The son of a carpenter and a homemaker, Mr. Allman, who was known as Neale, was born in Weston, W.Va. His early education was in Weston public schools. In 1942, he moved with his family to Armistead Gardens.
"He was from a very musical family," said his wife of 26 years, the former Norma MacDonald Neary, who also is a retired Baltimore County public schools music teacher. "When he was a young boy, his family formed a quartet and they sang hymns at area churches."
When Mr. Allman was 13, he began studying the trombone, his wife said.
"He had never had the opportunity to study an instrument until a teacher came to town and formed a band. The teacher gave Neale the trombone and that was the beginning of his musical career," Mrs. Allman recalled.
After graduating from Patterson Park High School, he served in the Army from 1946 to 1948, where he was a member of the 2nd Army band.
Mr. Allman earned a bachelor's degree in music education in 1954 from the Peabody Conservatory of Music and the next year began his 27-year career as an instrumental music instructor in Baltimore County public schools.
During his nearly three-decade career, Mr. Allman taught students at Carroll Manor, Victory Villa and Essex elementary schools; Deep Creek and Stemmers Run junior high schools; and Overlea and Patapsco high schools.
"That is the nature of the job when you're a music teacher. You go from school to school. He enjoyed teaching so much that he used to say, 'I never went to work, I went to school.' He loved teaching junior high school students," said Mrs. Allman, who first met her future husband when both were teenagers studying at Peabody. "I married someone else as he did and our paths eventually crossed many years later."
A son, Michael Allman, who followed in his father's footsteps, has been a Baltimore County music teacher for 31 years; he has been at Riderwood Elementary School for the past 25 years.
"He made sure that every kid had the opportunity to learn. He'd stay extra hours after school working with groups. He did what it took to get things to happen," said his son, who is a Timonium resident.
"He also had been my band director at Deep Creek and that was a mixed blessing," said Mr. Allman with a laugh. "I was able to play before and after school to my heart's content."
Mr. Allman said his father kept in touch with his former students, some of whom had gone onto successful professional music careers.
"He was always very happy about his students' achievements," his son said. "Several included Bernie Robier of The Admirals, who is a bass guitarist, Mak Russell, a bass player, and Wes Osment, who is a band director at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church's parochial school in Fullerton and at several other schools," he said.
In addition to his professional life, Mr. Allman was a longtime trombonist who played with the Baltimore County Senior Jazz Band and the Carl Hamilton Orchestra. He was also the founder of the Never Too Late Band at Carroll Village, where he had lived since 2006.
"He was a huge jazz fan and loved all of the big swing bands starting with Glenn Miller, which was at the top of his list. He also liked the Dorsey Brothers, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman and Duke Ellington," his son said.
Mr. Allman also taught music privately, and from 1956 to 1983, he had been choir director at Bethesda United Methodist Church.
Mr. Allman also assisted his son, who is equipment manager for the Baltimore Choral Arts Society.
"Up until fairly recently, he was still helping me go all across the state picking up equipment such as risers," Michael Allman said.
Mr. Allman was an avid power boater and enjoyed building and operating an extensive HO-gauge model railroad.
He was a member of Glyndon United Methodist Church.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at Carroll Lutheran Village, 300 St. Luke Circle, Westminster.
In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Allman is survived by three other sons, Mark Allman of Tampa, Fla., Matthew Allman of Perry Hall and Malcolm Allman of Smithsburg; two daughters, Marcie Allman Glinecki of Middle River and Mindy Allman Rash-Gehres of Haymarket, Va.; two stepdaughters, Carol Neary Sullivan of Eldersburg and Catherine Neary of Towson; a sister, Juanita Bosley of Oakland; 13 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. His first wife of 27 years, the former Joan Tallagsen, died in 1982. A stepson, James Neary, died in 1995.