Jean E. Kohlenstein, a retired teacher and accomplished baker whose recipe for butterscotch cookies made her a winner of The Baltimore Sun's Holiday Cookie Contest, died Monday of angiosarcoma at her Ellicott City home. She was 72.
The daughter of Charles Mineur, an electrician, and Ethel Mineur, a secretary, Jean Ethel Mineur was born and raised in Parkville.
After graduating from Parkville High School in 1960, she earned a bachelor's degree in education in 1964 from what is now Towson University. In 1964, she married Larry C. Kohlenstein, an environmental engineer.
Mrs. Kohlenstein began her teaching career in 1964 at Johnnycake Elementary School in Catonsville, where she taught for three years until leaving to raise her family.
"Memories of Jean start back in September 1964 when a very enthusiastic, attractive, newly married young woman began her teaching career at Johnnycake Elementary School under a great principal, John Young," said Joan P. Bannon, a longtime friend and fellow teacher.
"She happened to be assigned to the third grade, where I was the team leader. I immediately bonded with Jean as her husband, Larry, and my later-to-be-husband graduated from the Johns Hopkins engineering school," said Mrs. Bannon, who lives in Ocean View, Del. "We both loved sharing ideas and became lifelong friends."
She described Mrs. Kohlenstein as an "excellent, creative teacher who was a great team player."
Mrs. Kohlenstein and her fellow third-grade teachers organized their own field day and introduced flute-o-phones in conjunction with the school's music teacher. They urged their students to put on plays.
"In those years, our third-graders ranked first or second in national test scores for our county, which was a tribute to the students, parents and teachers," said Mrs. Bannon.
In 1984, Mrs. Kohlenstein resumed her teaching career at Glenelg Country School in Ellicott City.
Brita E. Stewart, who teaches eighth-grade English at Glenelg Country, met Mrs. Kohlenstein when she was a student in her fifth-grade language arts class.
"She was a really fantastic teacher who made a big impact on me. She was the kind of teacher who leaves a footprint," said Ms. Stewart, who lives in Ellicott City. She added that Mrs. Kohlenstein was a big influence on her decision to become an educator.
"I wasn't so organized back then, and she helped me focus on my strengths. She had a way of picking out the good she saw in you and letting you celebrate that," she said. "Her focus was always positive, and she gave you a sense of confidence in your ideas, which she helped you find."
Mrs. Kohlenstein enjoyed making her classes interesting for her students.
"She had a deep love of language and expression and liked manipulating language. She made it fun," said Ms. Stewart, who has been a member of the Glenelg faculty for 15 years. "She was a happy teacher and just so warm. She was just a very nice, nice person."
Mrs. Kohlenstein retired in 1995.
She was an active member for 50 years of Salem Lutheran Church in Catonsville, where she served as parish assistant from 1995 to 2006 and founded the Salem Stitch Crafters, a needlework group.
She was an accomplished baker and enjoyed making cakes and cookies.
"Cookies were her specialty, and she didn't go anywhere without taking cookies," said a daughter, Jill K. Herr of Gettysburg, Pa. "And she taught us all to make cookies."
In 2013, Mrs. Kohlenstein entered her mother's recipe for butterscotch cookies in The Sun's cookie contest, saying that she had been making the cookies for more than 50 years.
"Every time, and I do mean every time, I share them with a group, someone will request the recipe or call me on the phone the next day," Mrs. Kohlenstein told The Sun. "They are simply delicious, which might also be a good name for these cookies because that's what they are — delicious and simple to make."
"We'll second that," said The Sun's food editor, Kristine Henry, in selecting the winning cookie-contest recipe.
Mrs. Kohlenstein said there were two important components in making a successful batch of the cookies.
She "notes that the two most important parts of this recipe are patting the dough down thinly on the cookie sheet and cutting cookies into squares while they are still hot," wrote Ms. Henry.
Mrs. Kohlenstein, who liked to write poetry, was also an artist. From 1995 to 2006, she was craft coordinator at Michaels in Ellicott City.
In 2013, she wrote and published "Soul Searching," which included a lifetime of her writing and artwork.
She was an avid Orioles fan.
"She wrote a tribute to Brooks Robinson in the book and sent him a copy, and he replied with a handwritten thank-you note," said Ms. Herr.
"Her baking, as well as her hand-painted Christmas cards, were highly anticipated traditions for all who knew her," said Ms. Herr. "She was a caring soul, an artistic spirit and an award-winning baker. She devoted her life to her family, her community, and inspiring creativity in others."
Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at her church, 905 Frederick Road, Catonsville.
In addition to her husband, who is retired from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, and her daughter, Mrs. Kohlenstein is survived by a son, Bradley L. Kohlenstein of Silver Spring; another daughter, Karin B. Hurt of Catonsville; a brother, Charles "Chuck" Mineer of Manalapan, N.J.; and six grandchildren.