There's a oft-told story about the Dombrowskis - Raymond died in 2008 - that was chronicled in a 1990 article written by Karen Toussaint for The Sunday Weekly, that is no longer published, around a Valentine's Day theme. The article was titled "Boiler Room Romances: Couples meet in lots of places," and it prominently featured a photo of the Dombrowskis on the paper's cover.
"We met in the boiler room at Bel Air High School," Esther recalled for the article. "We both smoked at the time, and that was the only place teachers were allowed to smoke in the building. It was the fall of 1953. We were married in June of 1956."
Mr. Dombrowski was the much-admired and revered music teacher and band director at Bel Air High. Mrs. Dombrowski developed the routines used by the pom-pom crews and majorettes. The couple made a formidable team, according to their students and former BAHS teaching colleagues. (Esther told the story of how after they married, she was able to keep her position only because, as librarian, she didn't actually grade students.)
Karen Toussaint, who was particularly close to the couple, recalled last week how when her first husband was dying from a long, debilitating illness, "Esther was there with me, comforting me. She was really a wonderful person."
Teaching another generation
"So I have several memories of Mrs. D., as we always called her," Photo Editor Matt Button said. "It was obvious to me shortly after being hired at the paper that Mrs. D. had been a teacher at some point, because she always had that firm but understanding way about her and she would give you 'that look,' if she was calling you out on something."
"She was always helpful with the clip files or other file photos in the library archives, and she would always remind us that we had better make sure that things either got back to where they belonged, or at least on her desk so she could re-file them in the proper place," he added.
"I loved her sharp wit and sense of humor and she was always quick with a smile or, 'Hello, Mr. Button," and just like my grandmother, if she called me 'Matthew,' I knew I had done something wrong, or at least felt that way."
"One of the best memories I have of Mrs. D. was from an afternoon not too long after I had been hired at the paper," Button continued. "While scurrying around the building, back in the days when I had to process film, prints and what-not, I hurriedly rounded a blind corner head down with a handful of stuff toward the newsroom and as I looked up, there was the tiny grandmom that was Mrs. D."
"I dropped the stuff in my hands, wrapped my arms around her, lifted her up in a gentle bear hug and walked a few feet before putting her down and apologizing," he recalled. "I remember her saying 'that was a close one,' as both of us were laughing. It became a running joke that we shared for years after. As the years went by and Mrs. D. would come around to visit, she still had that quick wit and always asked how my new (and growing) family was.
"We will miss you, Mrs. D. Rest in peace."