'Miss Julie,' beloved by Columbia preschoolers


About 500 people packed the main room of the Oakland Mills Interfaith Center Friday to say goodbye to "Miss Julie," who cared for Columbia preschoolers for a decade and started the county school system's first day-care center for employees' children.

Julie B. Ibson, 46, died suddenly Wednesday in Bethany Beach, Del., while vacationing with her family. The cause of her death has not been determined.

Mrs. Ibson, a resident of Columbia's Hawthorn neighborhood for six years, was remembered for the time she took for both parents and children.

"It didn't matter what she was doing; if you wanted to talk to her, she always had time," remembers Mary Klatko, who worked with Mrs. Ibson to set up the Child Development Center for Howard County Inc. in 1990.

The self-supporting non-profit center provides care for the children of county school system employees.

Mrs. Ibson was available whether the problem was as serious as finding money for child care or as routine as advice on toilet training, Ms. Klatko said.

And, of course, children never passed unnoticed.

"Her desk was situated such that every child that came in gave her a hug in the morning and a hug when they left at night," Ms. Klatko said.

In less than a month, Mrs. Ibson converted a room at the School of Technology on Route 108 into a preschool.

It was at capacity with 64 children this spring, and Mrs. Ibson had recently been creating a new kindergarten day care program.

"I wish she were going to be here to see the opening this fall," Ms. Klatko said.

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., Mrs. Ibson moved as a child to Silver Spring. She later moved to Chevy Chase, and in 1963 graduated from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.

In 1967, Mrs. Ibson received a bachelor's degree in child study from Tufts University in Medford, Mass.

She went on to teach pre-schoolers and elementary students in public schools in Norfolk, Va., and Philadelphia.

In 1973, she moved with her family to Columbia's Bryant Woods neighborhood.

A member for several years of the Wilde Lake Cooperative

Nursery School, she became a teacher in 1977.

During 13 years working at the school, she also served as its director for several years.

"She's been teaching and working with parents of kids who span virtually a generation. The first class that she taught is on its way to college now," said her husband, Ralph.

The two were to have celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary Aug. 20.

Mrs. Ibson was a former member of the board of directors of the Family Life Center, a non-profit organization that provides mental health services in Columbia. She was also active in parent-teacher associations at all levels of her childrens' education and a member of the Wilde Lake High School booster club.

Besides her husband, Mrs. Ibson is survived by her 19-year-old ++ daughter, Miriam; a 16-year-old son, Jonah; a sister, Janet King of Laurel; parents Mildred and Isadore Gromfine of Chevy Chase.

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