Kenneth G. Yeager, a retired Catonsville educator and counselor who had been principal of Catonsville Evening High School and Catonsville Adult Center, died Sunday of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Columbia.
The longtime Ellicott City resident was 78.
"He was a special person that did 1,000 times more than anyone else for the good of the Catonsville kids, and I'm sure the same for anyone else he touched," said John Corbitt, a former student.
"He was a giant of a man who was a combination of strength and gentleness. He had an amazing presence," said the Rev. Kristopher Lindh-Payne, a former student who is now co-rector of Epiphany Episcopal Church in Timonium. "He had such a profound impact on my life."
The son of a United States Fidelity and Guaranty Co. worker and a homemaker, Kenneth George Yeager was born at home in Halethorpe.
After graduating in 1953 from Catonsville High School, he earned a bachelor's degree in social studies and education in 1957 from the University of Maryland, College Park. During the 1960s, he earned a master's degree, also from Maryland, and 30 credits toward his doctorate.
He entered Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Va., to prepare for the Episcopal priesthood, and six months later withdrew and married Barbara Gilson in 1958.
In 1960, Mr. Yeager began teaching at Catonsville Junior High School. He later became a guidance counselor, a position he held at the school for more than three decades until retiring in the 1990s.
"It was Ken who left behind so many lasting memories to people," said Kyle Lowe, who was at Catonsville Junior High School in the mid-1980s.
"He had a knack for listening and giving advice, and he was as close to me and was like a second father," said Mr. Lowe, who is now a Prince George's County park ranger. "His legacy is that he was always there for so many people."
"He was our counselor and very caring. He went beyond the bounds to make connections, and if he had to break a rule to do that, he did," said Chandler Louden, who was at the junior high in the 1970s and is now a plumbing contractor. "He was genuine and always your friend."
In addition to his work at the junior high school, he was a counselor and eventually principal of the Catonsville Evening High School and Catonsville Adult Center.
"The evening high school became a place where expelled students could earn the right to re-enter day school to get their diplomas," said his daughter, Cynthia Scourtis of Glenwood.
"Though he was offered other opportunities in the county school system, he remained committed to the students and declined offers in order to stay connected with the youth," said Ms. Scourtis. "With his calm and caring nature, he made a difference in each student's life and direction by listening, giving advice and engaging in activities with them."
"He was our site coordinator for the continuing education program for all of the Baltimore County public high schools and did all of our data tracking," said Louise Slezak, who is the Community College of Baltimore County's dean of community and continuing education.
"These were noncredit night courses like wellness, physical fitness or photography," said Ms. Slezak. "He was such a delightful person, who took a real interest in people. Ken believed he could serve the community through education. He had such a passion for life and was always ready to go."
Ms. Scourtis said her father also organized an annual Thanksgiving food drive for the Catonsville middle-school students, which "left them with life lessons and fond memories of delivering station wagon-loads of baskets to the needy."
Father Lindh-Payne recalled delivering food baskets as a middle-schooler at Catonsville.
"It was an experience he made possible for us. I remember going to the door and hearing the patter of little feet, and when the door opened, I realized it was the brother of a friend of mine," said Father Lindh-Payne.
"I did not realize that my neighbors had that kind of need. It was an experience that changed the trajectory of my life," he said. "That's when I realized that things were not right in the world, and it was Ken who helped make that experience happen."
Mr. Yeager was presented an Outstanding Educator Award in 1987 from the Teachers Association of Baltimore County.
Mr. Yeager was a communicant of Holy Apostles Episcopal Church in Arbutus for 70 years, where he was director of Christian education and director of acolytes and served as a lay reader and chalicist. He also served on the vestry and was a member of several search committees that brought new rectors to the church.
It was also at Holy Apostle that he met his future wife, who was director of music until her retirement in 2005, after which they became parishioners of St. Bartholomew Episcopal Church in Ten Hills.
"Ken has lived his Christian faith in every area of his life, sharing God's love and care with family, friends, church and work committees," said the Rev. Thelma Smullen, a longtime friend who served as pastor of both parishes. "He is an extraordinary example of one who takes his baptismal covenant seriously, living it out day by day."
Mr. Yeager enjoyed boating and water skiing and was an accomplished woodworker. He also was a gardener and an avid HO-gauge model railroader who built an extensive layout, family members said.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at his church, 4711 Edmondson Ave.
In addition to his wife of 55 years and daughter, Mr. Yeager is survived by a son, Donald Yeager of Ellicott City; a sister, Shirley Walker of Easton; and three grandchildren.
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