Beatrice I. "Bea" Jefferson, a retired educator who taught in city public schools for more than two decades, died Jan. 24 of cardiac arrest at Sinai Hospital. She was 89.
The daughter of a butcher and a homemaker, Beatrice Irene Knotts was one of eight children. She was born and raised in Wilmington, Del.
After graduating in 1939 from Howard High School in Wilmington, Mrs. Jefferson earned a bachelor's degree in 1943 from what is now Morgan State University.
Mrs. Jefferson worked for the Social Security Administration while earning her teacher's certification from what is now Coppin State University.
She later studied at what is now Loyola University Maryland, where she became a certified specialist in remedial and advanced reading skills for middle-school students.
Mrs. Jefferson began teaching in 1955 at Gwynns Falls Elementary School and later taught at the old Gwynns Falls Junior High School.
Mrs. Jefferson was on the faculty of Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Brooklyn at the time of her 1981 retirement.
"I was actually a student at Gwynns Falls Middle when she was teaching there," said a son, Leland C. Jefferson of Woodlawn.
"She was tough and told me that I 'better not get in trouble.' If Mom made trouble for some of the tough guys at school, they knew where we lived on Elgin Avenue and where to find me. I was lucky I had two older brothers," Mr. Jefferson said, laughing.
"She was a tough and demanding teacher, but the students loved her," he said. "During her years as a teacher, she touched the lives of many, many young people over an award-winning career."
For years, Mrs. Jefferson was a loyal supporter of Forest Park High School football.
"My two brothers played football for Forest Park, and she'd be there every Friday afternoon. She never missed a game," Mr. Jefferson said.
In 1965, the Afro-American Newspapers presented Mrs. Jefferson with its Favorite Teacher Award.
Mrs. Jefferson's work in reading earned her a certificate of merit in 1975 from then-city school Superintendent Roland Patterson "for having demonstrated professional excellence in conducting reading staff development activities in the Right to Read Program."
"She was a very kind, intelligent woman," said Celonia A. Walden of Huntington Beach, Calif., whose mother had taught with Mrs. Jefferson.
In 1943, she married Alex Wesley Jefferson Sr., a maintenance worker who died in 1992.
After she retired, Mrs. Jefferson and her husband enjoyed traveling across the country by railroad and taking cruises. The couple's favorite vacation destination was Aruba, family members said.
In recent years, the 50-year West Baltimore resident had lived at Glynn Taff, a Catonsville assisted-living facility.
Mrs. Jefferson was a diehard Baltimore Colts fan and in recent years enthusiastically embraced the Ravens. She also was an avid reader.
She was a lifelong member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Mrs. Jefferson was an active member of Union Memorial United Methodist Church on Harlem Avenue, where services were held Monday.
Also surviving is another son, Alex Wesley Jefferson Jr. of Edmondson Village; a brother, Donald Knotts of Newark, Del.; two sisters, Evelyn Torrence of New Castle, Del., and Regina Nix of Scotch Plains, N.J.; seven grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren. Another son, Dwight Jefferson Sr., died in 1978.