Charlotte Feast Hoffman, 98, conservationist, music teacher at Friends School


Charlotte Feast Hoffman, a conservationist and former Friends School music teacher whose method of teaching required students to construct the instruments they subsequently learned to play, died Monday of kidney failure at Northwest Hospital Center. She was 98.

Mrs. Hoffman, who joined the Friends School faculty in 1938, established the music shop course in which students made flutes, recorders, marimbas, cymbals, drums, banjos and ukuleles, then learned how to make music with them. She retired in 1950.

"For instance, she'd take a nail keg and cover it with an old inner tube from a tire and turn it into a drum, or use bamboo for a flute or a recorder," said her son, the Rev. Harry Lee Hoffman of Avalon.

"They then played as a rhythm band with her accompanying on the piano. It sounded like a bit of a din but was fun. Her motto was, 'In music shop, nothing is impossible except the music,' " he said, laughing.

During summers in the 1940s, Mrs. Hoffman taught music at Camp Treetops at the North Country School in Lake Placid, N.Y., and counted among her students the children of composer Richard Rodgers and author John Gunther.

Charlotte Feast was born and raised in the 700 block of Reservoir St. in Reservoir Hill, the daughter of Charles Frederick Feast, a noted musician, church organist and composer. She became a skilled pianist, often accompanying her father, who played violin.

She was a graduate of the old Friends School at Park Place and Laurens Street on Bolton Hill. In a 1980 "I Remember When" feature in the Sunday Sun Magazine, she recalled her years there during World War I.

As a member of the Red Cross Club, she knitted sweaters and socks and rolled bandages for American servicemen, and recalled hearing the erroneous news that the war had ended on Nov. 7, 1918.

"We all went wild, and I was so excited I cried. We had a big snake dance outside of school to celebrate the occasion," she wrote in her diary.

Five days later, she recalled being awakened by the sound of celebratory whistles throughout the city: "Joy! Germany really signed this time! We woke up at 6 a.m. when all the whistles downtown started blowing. When I arrived at school we sang a few patriotic songs and then went downtown. Gee, it was great."

A graduate of the old Towson Normal School, she taught in city public schools before marrying H. Lee Hoffman Jr. in 1924.

Mr. Hoffman, a nationally recognized conservationist, environmentalist and advertising executive, died in 1980.

For years, the couple lived at Ivy Hill Forest, near Cockeysville, on 117 acres of landscaped woodland. The property and its hundreds of rhododendrons, azaleas and wildflowers eventually was donated and became part of Baltimore County's Oregon Ridge Park.

A resident of the Fairhaven Retirement Community in Sykesville since 1981, Mrs. Hoffman had been a member of the Residents' Board, sung in the choir, wrote poetry and compiled her family memoirs.

She had been a member of Sherwood Episcopal Church in Cockeysville for many years.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow in the chapel at Fairhaven, 7200 Third Ave., in Sykesville.

In addition to her son, she is survived by two daughters, Charlotte H. Wheeler of the Woodbrook section of Baltimore County and Martha H. Stegner of Ruxton; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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