Thelma O'Neal, who taught children and served with charity for elder women, dies

Thelma Klages O’Neal, who worked in early childhood education and later served with a charity benefiting elder women, died of vascular disease Dec. 9 at the Augsburg Lutheran Home.

She was 98 and lived in Brighton in Baltimore County.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Walbrook, she was the daughter of Vernon Klages, who delivered Koester’s bread, and his wife, Hilda Cramblitt.

She was a 1937 graduate of Forest Park High School and later attended the old Baltimore Junior College, where she studied education.

She became a secretary at the Johns Hopkins Phipps Clinic, then worked at the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital and the old Marine Hospital in Wyman Park.

She later taught at Ruth Clifford’s Greenwood Nursery School on Ruscombe Lane, and also had worked at the Children’s Guild. She was an assistant to Elizabeth Carpenter, who ran a cooperative preschool class at the old Mount Washington Library. She held a similar post at the DeWees Recreation Center in Govans.

In 1970, she taught 3-year-olds at the Towson Child Development Center and later was a kindergarten assistant at the Lida Lee Tall Laboratory School. In 1977 she became office manager and secretary of the Family and Children’s Agency’s eastern office in Charles Village.

In 1980 she took on secretary duties with the Anna Emory Warfield Fund, a charity that helps elderly women who have limited financial means.

“My mother was always at the end of the telephone to offer support and advice to the grantees,” said her daughter, Katherine O’Neal of Daingean, Ireland. “Her record-keeping and note-taking abilities were impeccable.”

She had the organization’s office phone relayed to her home phone, and although she was a part time employee she often took calls during the night and on weekends. She worked from a manual typewriter. When it broke and could not be repaired, she retired in 1992 at age 82.

She enjoyed gardening, quilting and crochet work, and was a sponsor of the Maryland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

A memorial service will be held at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday at the Augsburg Lutheran Home, where she had volunteered for 35 years.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include three grandchildren. Her marriage to John Leonard O’Neal, a pharmacist, ended in divorce.

— Jacques Kelly

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