Sidney Carton dies at age 92

Popular city high school math teacher

August 17, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Sidney Carton, a popular city high school math teacher who made sure his students understood the difference between the Pythagorean theorem, pi r squared, a hypotenuse and other math concepts before leaving his classroom, died Aug. 11 from kidney failure at Gilchrist Hospice Care.

The Pikesville resident was 92.

Mr. Carton, the son of a retail clothing salesman and a homemaker, was born in Philadelphia, where he spent his early years. He moved in 1923 with his family to the city's Pimlico neighborhood.

After graduating from Forest Park High School in 1934, he enrolled at what was then Towson State Normal School, where he earned a teaching degree in 1937.

Because of the Depression, full-time teaching jobs were difficult to come by, so Mr. Carton worked as a substitute teacher and at odd jobs to support himself. He began teaching full time in Baltimore public schools in 1940, when he was given the assignment to teach special-needs students who were not able to be in a regular school environment.

Shortly before the U.S. entered World War II, he was drafted into the Army, but while waiting to go overseas, he contracted a serious infection that prevented him from being shipped out with his unit. He was sent to Fort Meade where he served until being discharged with the rank of sergeant at war's end.

Mr. Carton enrolled at the Johns Hopkins University, where he earned a bachelor's degree with a minor in accounting on the G.I. Bill. Years later, he returned to Hopkins and earned a bachelor's degree in education.

In the late 1940s, he resumed his teaching career at the old Fortview Junior High School at Hudson Street and Highland Avenue.

To support his growing family, Mr. Carton augmented his teaching salary by establishing an accounting and bookkeeping service.

In 1960, he took a leave from teaching for three years, during which he worked for a Baltimore brokerage. He returned to the classroom in 1963, after the death of his eldest daughter, Isabel E. Carton.

He taught math students at Pimlico Junior High School, Northwest High School and finally at Forest Park High School, from which he retired in 1977.

After retiring, he continued working for several years as a substitute teacher, and remained chief accountant and bookkeeper for Liberty TV in Baltimore until he was in his mid-80s.

A niece, Ricky M. Ressin, who graduated in 1959 from Forest Park, found herself in his math class as a student.

"I couldn't call him 'Uncle Sid' or 'Mr. Carton,' so I didn't call him anything," Ms. Ressin, who lives in Gaithersburg, said with a laugh.

"I remember my girlfriends telling me that he was their favorite teacher. He was easygoing and always wanted all of his students to succeed. He could be very hard, but you ended up understanding what he was trying to teach to you," she said.

"We had a bunch of guys who had flunked out of [Polytechnic Institute] who landed in his class. They all knew he was my uncle and hard of hearing. They also knew I was pretty good at algebra," she said.

"I'd make up questions that he answered and once they saw me doing that, they felt comfortable asking him questions," Ms. Ressin said.

Ms. Ressin recalled one of her uncle's students who was beyond math redemption, despite all of the extra help he had heaped on the young man.

"He made a deal with him," Ms. Ressin recalled, with a laugh. "He told the student that if he promised never to take a math course again, he'd pass him."

Because Mr. Carton's full name echoed that of a character in Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities," his family got some good-natured teasing from other academics.

"It happened a lot more years ago, when 'A Tale of Two Cities' was required reading in high school. We got a lot of ribbing back then," said his wife of 66 years, the former Gloria Lippman.

"When I was in college, professors learning my name would ask, 'Any relation to the Carton in Dickens' novel?' And I'd say, no, that Carton spells his [first] name with a 'Y not an I,'" a daughter, Rita S. Carton of Los Angeles, said with a laugh.

Ms. Carton said in the wake of her father's death, former students remembered him as a "beloved teacher," "fun but tough" or "favorite teacher."

Mr. Carton never lost his love for Forest Park High School or its students, and last year participated in the 50th reunion of the Class of 1959 at the school.

Until his death, Mr. Carton was the longtime treasurer of the Baltimore chapter of Bereaved Parents of USA and served as treasurer of the Baltimore chapter of Brandeis University National Women's Committee.

He and his wife enjoyed playing bridge.

Mr. Carton was also an avid reader of history and enjoyed volunteering at the Pikesville public library.

He was a former member of Oheb Shalom Congregation.

Services were Friday.

Also surviving are another daughter, Emily S. Carton of Washington; a sister, Faye Weisblatt of Silver Spring; and two grandchildren.

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