For nearly 20 years, Raymond Mathias presided over Winfield Elementary School with a gentle, hands-on style of leadership. He was a constant presence at the school -- in the classrooms, at cafeteria tables and on the playground.
Yesterday, the close-knit Winfield community of students, faculty and parents arrived at a school without Raymond Mathias. The 52-year-old veteran educator was killed Monday when a tractor-trailer hit his car about a half-mile from the school.
"Ray Mathias was Winfield," said Anne Marie Mason, mother of a third-grade student at the school. "He brought strength and encouragement to this school."
In a steady rain yesterday morning, children filed into Winfield Elementary.
Several school buses arrived half empty. But the parking lots were full as many parents walked with their children into the one-story brick building and lingered in the classrooms.
"Mr. Mathias was such a positive force in the school," said Donna McGraw, mother of a first-grade student. "He was always there at every event, even the PTA yard sale."
McGraw walked her child into the school yesterday morning.
"I didn't want her to hear it in the hall. I was worried what would happen when the children didn't hear him leading the pledge like he did every morning," she said.
Instead, the day began at Winfield as individual teachers read a prepared statement to students, informing them of Mathias' death.
As planned, the third-grade students at Winfield took the Maryland State Performance Assessment Program tests.
"I think the children were really geared up for the test," said guidance counselor Angela Nunnelly. "Some students were told, 'Do your best; that's what Ray would want.'
"But in spite of everything, there was peace that prevailed in the building," Nunnelly said. "A great peace has been here all day and we were walking in it."
Mathias family members have asked for memorial donations in his name to the school at 4401 Salem Bottom Road, Westminster 21157.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Covenant of Grace Presbyterian Church in Reisterstown.
Pub Date: 5/13/98