Margaret C. Doyle, teacher and poet

Pikesville resident also edited Renaissance Institute's literary magazine

April 22, 2013|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Margaret C. Doyle, a retired public school English teacher and poet who later taught for many years at the Renaissance Institute, died Thursday from complications following surgery at Baltimore Washington Medical Center.

The former longtime Pikesville resident was 85.

"Margaret was a magnificent woman. She was brilliant and loving," said Jim Holechek, a retired Baltimore public relations executive and author. "Her husband was an artist and she was a poet, and it was always wonderful to interface with her. She was a very sensitive person and able to express herself very well."

"Marge had the grace of language and an intelligent wit, which was a winning combination," said Denny Lynch, who had taught with Mrs. Doyle at Robert Poole Junior High School in Hampden.

"She had refinement and sophistication and when she entered the classroom it was always very positive," said Mr. Lynch, a history teacher who retired in 2003 from Western High School. "She had a great love for literature, history, architecture and music."

The former Margaret Ann Cunningham was born in Baltimore and raised on Gwynn Falls Parkway near Walbrook.

She attended St. Cecilia's parochial school on Windsor Avenue and graduated from Trinity Preparatory School in Ilchester.

Mrs. Doyle graduated in 1949 with a bachelor's degree from the now-closed Mount St. Agnes College in Mount Washington, and earned a master's degree in liberal arts in 1966 from the Johns Hopkins University.

In 1949, she married Gerald Francis Doyle, an artist.

She began her teaching career in 1962 at Robert Poole Junior High School, where she taught English and also chaired the combined English and social studies department for many years.

"She taught countless kids from Hampden, Remington and Woodberry and a lot of those kids are now in their 50s," said Mr. Lynch. "She absolutely loved those neighborhoods and got great joy from teaching there."

He said that Mrs. Doyle was "a lot of fun to be with."

"She always brought humor to a conversation and because she was a Cunningham and Irish, I always said her wit was part of her Irish DNA. She always had an edge of wit about her," said Mr. Lynch.

He recalled that Mrs. Doyle even made routine cafeteria duty, monitoring students at lunchtime, interesting.

"When we were in the caf and she had to write passes for the kids to go to the bathroom, she'd write them in Latin," he said with a laugh.

Mrs. Doyle spent the last two years of her career at Fallstaff Middle School, and retired from there in 1982.

She did not stay retired for long, though, going to work at the Renaissance Institute at Notre Dame University of Maryland, where for 30 years she coordinated and taught many courses in literature, history and art.

It was while teaching at the institute that Mrs. Doyle developed an interest in both writing and teaching poetry. For years, and continuing until her death, she conducted the institute's poetry seminar.

She also was poetry editor of "Reflections," the institute's literary magazine, and her own poetry was published in The Baltimore Sun, The New York Times, The National Catholic Reporter, Baltimore City Paper and other publications. In 2008, she published "Poems," which was a collection of her own work.

The subject of Mrs. Doyle's poetry ranged from her love of travel and family to her deep and abiding interest in art, archaeology, history and gardening.

She had both stage and television performances of her work at Theater Hopkins, Johns Hopkins University, as well as Cockpit-in-the Court at Essex Community College and Spotlighters Theater.

In her poem, "Self-Portrait," Mrs. Doyle wrote:

When I am being most meself

Ye'd niver want to know me.

Me hair uncombed. me feet unshod, me lunch forgot ---

Alas, bigod,

I do not write aesthetely.

Me papers crumpled into wads,

me forehead furrowed into knots.

I have forgot meself completely.

Another poem, "Breda's Song," deals with "loss and death in a mournful yet beautiful way," said a son, Dr. Kevin J. Doyle, who lives in Reisterstown.

My dear, I dreamed that you were dead.

I awoke

alone in bed

with cobwebs of grief entangled in my hair.

Loss lay on my shoulders.

My feet were bare

on the chilly floor.

I knew then it was no dream.

Oh, I would sleep again

and sleep forever more

could I but dream you still alive

beyond my bedroom door.

Mrs. Doyle was a striking woman with her white hair, blue eyes and pink lipstick.

"And as she grew older, she continued to show her beauty," said Mr. Holechek.

"She could look at you with her blue eyes and could say things that would not come from her lips. And in her conversation, she could take you anywhere you wanted to go," said Mr. Holechek, who first me Mrs. Doyle and her husband more than 30 years ago at a meeting of the Civil War Roundtable in Baltimore.

Mrs. Doyle and her husband were avid world travelers with Italy and Ireland being two particularly favorite destinations. They also had traveled to England, Greece, Mexico, Israel and Egypt.

"She also enjoyed researching genealogical and historical sites for her many trips abroad with her husband and family. She approached travel as a continuation of her love of history and literature," said her son.

Dr. Doyle said his mother, who had lived at Roland Park Place since 2004, was an indefatigable traveler who let no obstacle get in her way.

"On occasions when she would arrive at a church or classical historical site that would be temporarily closed, she would not hesitate to charm her way in by talking to a security guard or climbing a fence if need be. She was a determined traveler," said her son.

A memorial gathering for Mrs. Doyle will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. May 4 at Roland Park Place, 830 W. 40th St.

In addition to her husband and son, Mrs. Doyle is survived by two other sons, Dr. L. Austin Doyle of Washington and Timothy J. Doyle of Sykesville; a sister, Mary Edna Conroy of Catonsville; and six grandchildren.

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