Hundreds of mourners -- students and colleagues, the mayor and school superintendent, friends and admirers -- filled a West Baltimore church to overflowing yesterday for the funeral of Alice G. Pinderhughes, a retired city school superintendent who died Thursday.
When the Rev. Michael Curry asked how many lives had been "touched" by Mrs. Pinderhughes, 900 hands were raised in the sanctuary of St. James Episcopal Church, West Lafayette and North Arlington avenues. Another 100 mourners were in the church balcony, while perhaps 100 stood for the hourlong ceremony.
"Even after she stopped being superintendent, she would give us all advice about what we should be doing in the schools and for the children," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, one of two dozen elected officials paying respects to Mrs. Pinderhughes, who headed city schools from 1982 to 1988.
"I knew her to be one of the most gracious, focused women in leadership, one who governed with a sense of dignity and firmness," said Rep. Kweisi Mfume, the West Baltimore Democrat. "She never settled for second best."
Among others attending the service was John Henry Jones III, Mrs. Pinderhughes' longtime driver, who said his former boss would "get around to the schools so much. She'd even go out in a blizzard."
And Calvin Anderson, president of the Northwest Baltimore Corp., remembered Mrs. Pinderhughes as an "energetic, concerned teacher" when he was a student at Henderson Elementary School 40 years ago.
Mrs. Pinderhughes' career in Baltimore spanned 45 years, during which she devoted most of her professional energies to early childhood education.
"She didn't get enough recognition for that," said Walter G. Amprey, the current superintendent. "Alice worked hard through her entire career to get education to children at their earliest ages. I've been going about quoting her for years."
"I hope that in her honor we will one day be able to say that all 3- and 4-year-olds in the city are enrolled in preschool programs," said Phillip H. Farfel, school board president.
John L. Crew Sr., who preceded Mrs. Pinderhughes as superintendent, remembered a few friendly poker games with his friend and Ashburton neighbor. "I'll really miss her, and so will the city," Dr. Crew said.
Paul L. Vance, Montgomery County school superintendent, was a colleague and fellow parishioner of Mrs. Pinderhughes nearly a quarter-century ago. "She always did what was best for children first, and then for the city," Dr. Vance said.
"Regularly, we'd have breakfast at Cross Keys and discuss the issues of the day," recalled Del. Howard "Pete" Rawlings, the West Baltimore Democrat who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "She was a woman of class."
In his homily, Father Curry praised Mrs. Pinderhughes for leading an urban school system "with integrity and honesty during a time of great difficulty." At a memorial gathering before the service, 70 members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sang anthems and read tributes.
Memorials may be made to the Alice G. Pinderhughes Scholarship Fund, Harbor Bank of Maryland, 25 W. Fayette St., Baltimore 21201. Mrs. Pinderhughes is survived by her daughter, hTC Alice G. Pinderhughes, son-in-law Jesse Weaver and three grandchildren.