Marilyn W. Beckey, a former longtime Stoneleigh Elementary School art teacher who was a world traveler, died July 25 of heart failure at Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury. She was 86.
"She was a lot of fun and reminded me of 'Mrs. Doubtfire,' " said Brandon Bender, who studied art with Mrs. Beckey at Stoneleigh Elementary school from 1987 to 1990. "She was very friendly and outgoing. She let us run, and if there was anything she could do to help us, she would."
The daughter of Paul Westfall, an IRS auditor, and Margaret Armstrong Westfall, a homemaker, Marilyn Westfall was born in Posey County, Ind., and spent her early years in Poseyville, Ind., before moving to Greenbelt with her family in the late 1930s.
They moved again to Springfield, Ohio, where she graduated from Springfield High School. She began her college studies in 1949 at Wittenberg University, also in Springfield.
There she met Robert Davis Beckey, whom she married shortly before her graduation in 1953.
The couple began teaching in elementary schools, first in Buffalo, N.Y., and later in Hanover, Pa., and came to Towson in 1959 when Mr. Beckey joined the math department of what was then Towson State Teachers College.
While raising her children, she was active in the Towson State Faculty Wives Club, performed in talent shows and helped organize campus activities.
After her children were grown, Mrs. Beckey returned to college and earned a master's degree in the 1970s from Towson State University.
She returned to teaching art at the Lida Lee Tall School on the Towson University campus. She later taught at Carney Elementary School and Gunpowder Elementary School, before joining the faculty of Stoneleigh Elementary School, where she taught for many years before retiring in the 1990s.
Jane E. Umstead, who taught second-, third- and fourth-grade students at Stoneleigh, was a colleague and close friend.
"She was always happy. I never saw Marilyn when she wasn't happy and smiling," said Mrs. Umstead, who retired in 2004 from Dumbarton Middle School, where she taught social studies for 14 years.
"We also shared a love of the United Kingdom, which she visited many times," said Mrs. Umstead, who now lives in Amherst, Va.
"Marilyn was always very encouraging with the kids and wanted them to show their creativity, which is the most important thing you can do when teaching," she said.
"She loved making pottery and had a kiln in her classroom," said Mr. Bender, a construction worker who lives in Parkville. "I remember one time she got on an Egyptian kick and we were making papier-mache mummies, which we thought were pretty cool. She let us get away with making a lot of goofy things."
Mr. Bender said Mrs. Beckey accomplished a lot on a tight budget.
"She brought her own paints from home and other art supplies from home," he said. "If you showed any kind of interest in something that we were doing, she was all over you."
Geoff Bond, who is a position management supervisor in human resources for Baltimore County public schools, was also a student of Mrs. Beckey's at Stoneleigh in the 1970s.
"She was the quintessential elementary school teacher. She was wonderful, very positive, upbeat and really encouraging to all of her students, and even people like me who weren't the most talented when it came to art," said Mr. Bond, who lives in Timonium.
"I never saw her down. She was the direct opposite of a cynical person. She was always cheerful," he said.
Mr. Bond said she established a weaving club and brought looms into her classroom to teach weaving to her students.
"She skipped lunchtime and used her own time to teach weaving," he said. "For a lot us, her art class was the best class of the day. She was just so much fun."
After she was divorced from her husband in the 1980s, Mrs. Beckey moved to a home on Kenilworth Drive in Towson, and after retiring from teaching, moved to Stags Head Road in Lutherville.
Mrs. Beckey enjoyed traveling through Europe on summer vacations.
For a number of years, Mrs. Beckey enjoyed driving a deep red 1928 Pierce-Arrow touring car with black fenders.
"Here was this little petite lady driving this big, big car — about 20 feet long — that had a double clutch," a son, Samuel Scott Beckey of San Diego, said with a laugh.
In 2007, she moved to Mallard Landing, a retirement community in Salisbury, to be near another son.
At the retirement community, Mrs. Beckey led an art group and continued painting in oils.
"She was a giving and intelligent woman whose life was often dedicated to the service of others," her son said. "She taught because she thought it was important and idealistically gave of herself to the benefit of her students."
Services are private, and according to her wishes, her ashes will be scattered in Poseyville near the graves of her parents, her son said.
In addition to her son, Mrs. Beckey is survived by two other sons, Christopher Thomas Armstrong Beckey of Baltimore and Robert Westfall Beckey of Salisbury; and three grandsons.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun