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Nancy Mairs Gephart, teacher devoted to community service, dies

Nancy Mairs Gephart, a teacher at Baltimore schools who helped organize a college scholarship fund as part of her work in the community, died of cancer Sept. 2. The Blakehurst resident was 90.

“She was a gifted teacher and taught at three different schools,” said George Wesley Gephart, her husband of 66 years. “She was beloved.”

Nancy Gephart was born in 1927 in St. Paul, Minn., to George Alexander Mairs Jr., the founder of a successful investment counsel firm, and Jean McLeod Mairs, who died of pneumonia when Mrs. Gephart was young. Her father remarried and she became the oldest of six siblings.

Mrs. Gephart graduated from the Summit School in St. Paul before earning a bachelor’s degree from Mt. Holyoke College and a master’s in education from the Johns Hopkins University.

“She was a good student,” recalled her sister Louise Frankenbach, of Bethlehem, Pa. “She had a lot of friends. She was the oldest of the six of us children. She wasn’t obnoxious about it, but she was the head of the family. She was always a very gracious person up until the day she died.”

Mrs. Gephart met her future husband when he was roommates with her brother Bob Mairs at Yale. They got married in 1951 and the couple had three sons: George, Angus and John.

“I introduced them,” said Bob Mairs of St. Paul. “I said to George, ‘You ought to date my sister; she’s a hot number.’ ”

The Gepharts moved to Baltimore’s Mount Washington neighborhood and Nancy Gephart taught reading at Gilman’s lower school and — after taking time off to raise her children — later taught second-grade at the Bryn Mawr School. Most of her teaching career, however, was at the Roland Park Country School.

“Mom cherished the annual opportunity to work with the daughters she never had,” her son John Gephart of Baltimore said.

While teaching the third-grade girls, Mrs. Gephart often rushed over to Gilman to watch her sons’ sports and musical events in the evenings.

Evans Taylor, a friend and fellow teacher at Roland Park, recalled Mrs. Gephart’s skill with the students.

“She was the best teacher. She really was a wonderful, quiet, gentle teacher whose children adored her,” Ms. Taylor said. “I’ll miss her sweet smile, soft voice and lovely disposition.”

Even though she lived on the East Coast, Mrs. Gephart stayed in touch with family and friends from Minnesota, her brother said.

“She was so friendly and open,” Mr. Mairs said. “You’d ask about her and she’d very quickly turn the subject to you. She very quickly accepted her own problems and made the best of them. She was a very cheerful, optimistic person. That’s the part about her I’ll miss the most.”

She volunteered in the community through the Junior League of Baltimore, working on several of the organization’s charitable initiatives and singing in the choral group The Larks.

“She had a magnificent record as a volunteer for the Junior League of Baltimore,” her husband said. “She ran a very successful event for them called the Haunted House.”

Ann King, a friend, recalled her commitment to community service.

“She always had time to spend on doing good works, on such things as her volunteer work serving on the board of the Women's Hospital,” she said. “Nancy and I sang with the Junior League Larks for nearly 20 years. She had lovely clear soprano voice.”

Mrs. Gephart regularly joined her husband, who was BGE’s chief lobbyist, to entertain federal, state and local politicians, family members said.

The family took summer vacations to Minnesota and to the beach in Delaware.

Ms. Frankenbach recalled the family vacations at Dewey Beach fondly.

“We’d pile into this little tiny cottage. She would feed 12 of us in this tiny kitchen,” she said of her older sister. “Our kids all remember how wonderful her scrambled eggs were. We always had the most wonderful time.”

In her later years, Mrs. Gephart moved to Blakehurst Senior Independent Living Community in Towson and helped found the Blakehurst Residents’ Scholarship Foundation, which provides college scholarships for aspiring students who work there. She also attended religious meetings, family members said.

John Riina, the president of the Blakehurst Residents’ Scholarship Foundation, said Mrs. Gephart was dedicated to making sure students had enough money to go to college.

“Nancy is one of the original founders of the foundation,” he said. “We started out very modestly and this year we issued 54 scholarships for over $128,000. This was her favorite thing to do. We have a lot of young people here who are going into college. The scholarships are very helpful and they come from the residents. I’ll miss her dedication to the young people. She was a very gentle lady, who was very strong in her convictions and lived up to them. She was very well-loved around here.”

A memorial service will be held on Oct. 20 at 11 a.m. at the Church of the Redeemer at 5603 N. Charles Street in Baltimore.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Blakehurst Residents' Scholarship Foundation, Inc., 1055 West Joppa Road in Towson.

In addition to her husband, brother, sister and son, she is survived by two other sons, George Jr. of Philadelphia and Angus of New Jersey; five grandchildren; one great-grandchild; and nieces and nephews.

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