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Sara Silverton, teacher

Colleges and UniversitiesFitnessUniversity of Maryland, College ParkUnion Memorial HospitalKennedy Krieger InstituteJohns Hopkins Hospital

Sara Silverton, who had taught English and Latin at Patterson Park High School and later worked in psychological testing at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, died Monday of a stroke at Union Memorial Hospital. The Roland Park Place resident was 101.

The daughter of a kosher butcher and a homemaker, Sara Silberstein was born in a West Baltimore Street home where she was also raised.

On her 100th birthday, Mrs. Silverton composed a monograph for her family about her life.

She recalled her first ride in an automobile, when "my sister Mollie and I were all dressed up."

"It was a Sunday," she wrote. "Cars then were hard to drive, and the car stalled on a hill in Druid Hill Park and slid backward the whole way to the bottom. The driver jumped out, and I can still see him winding up the crank in front and racing to get back in before it died again."

After graduating from Western High School in 1926, she earned a degree in 1931 from the Johns Hopkins Teaching College.

"I always wanted to be a teacher more than anything," Mrs. Silverton wrote in the memoir. "When I was 6 or 7, I remember taking butcher paper from my father's store, cutting it up into little notebooks, and forcing the neighborhood kids to practice their ABC's. Needless to say, they didn't stick around long!"

After graduating from Hopkins, she was a substitute teacher before joining the faculty of Patterson Park High School in 1933, where she taught English and Latin for the next 12 years.

She married her husband and third cousin, Dr. George Silverton, a University of Maryland School of medicine graduate, who at the time of their 1933 marriage was a $25-a-month intern at the old Franklin Square Hospital in West Baltimore.

In 1937, Dr. Silverton, who practiced internal medicine, established an office on Light Street. In 1941, he joined the Army's 29th Division, where he served in Europe.

After being discharged, Dr. Silverton returned to Baltimore suffering from what in those days was called "shell shock," now known as post-traumatic stress disorder, which forced him to be hospitalized and close his medical practice.

In 1949, Dr. Silverton was able to return to work as a radiologist at a Veterans Hospital in Huntington, W.Va. The next year, he moved his family to Lumberton, N.C., where he worked in the local hospital as a radiologist.

Mrs. Silverton returned to teaching, where she taught English to nursing students. In the 1960s, she went to work at the Community Mental Health Clinic in Lumberton, where she was trained to conduct psychological testing.

She was also very active in interfaith activities and tutored gifted and talented children.

"She was quite a cultural force in Lumberton," said a daughter, Deborah S. Rosenfelt, a professor at the University of Maryland who lives in University Park.

"She brought the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra to Lumberton. They had never played there," said Dr. Rosenfelt. "She was also active in drama and the garden club."

"In 1965, she was named Woman of the Year in Lumberton," said another daughter, Margery S. Silverton, a clinical therapist who lives in Annapolis.

In 1973, the couple moved back to Baltimore and settled in a home at Cross Keys. During the 1980s and until the early 1990s, Mrs. Silverton did psychological testing at the Pediatric Epilepsy Center of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, exploring the impact of drug, dietary and surgical interventions for childhood epilepsy.

Mrs. Silverton was an avid daily swimmer and celebrated her 90th birthday, Dr. Rosenfelt said, "by going body surfing at Rehoboth Beach, Del."

In 2005, while visiting Florida, Mrs. Silverton had to be talked out of taking her daily swim in Hurricane Katrina-roiled seas, Dr. Rosenfelt said.

Family members attributed Mrs. Silverton's longevity to her daily walks. And when she was forced to use a walker, she walked no less than a third of a mile daily and regularly exercised in the fitness room of Roland Park Place, where she moved in 2001.

"She used the fitness room the day before she died," said Dr. Rosenfelt. "She was also very disciplined about the food she put in her mouth. She made sure everything was low-fat, and she limited eating red meat."

Mrs. Silverton did not smoke and limited her drinking to "Mogen David ceremonial wine," said Dr. Rosenfelt. At Roland Park Place, she organized celebrations of holidays for Jewish residents.

Her husband died in 2002.

"I'm proud of my life — but most of all I'm proud to be part of such a productive and accomplished family — generations of people who give something to our world," Mrs. Silverton wrote. "In our family, there are teachers, professors, doctors, lawyers, therapists, businessmen and chefs. Every single one of us has worked hard and given back."

Mrs. Silverton was an active member of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

Services were held Wednesday at Sol Levinson & Bros.

In addition to her two daughters, Mrs. Silverton is survived by a granddaughter.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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