Margaret Mary Benesch, who remained a vibrant presence in the lives of the many pupils she taught during her 40 years at St. Clement I Academy in Lansdowne, died of complications from a bleeding ulcer Saturday at St. Agnes HealthCare. She was 61 and lived in the Lakeland section of Southwest Baltimore.
Miss Benesch was born in Baltimore and raised on East Fort Avenue in Locust Point. She entered the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1956 and graduated from Holy Angels Academy in Fort Lee, N.J., in 1959.
She returned to the Baltimore area and studied for a year at the order's motherhouse, and professed her vows in 1961. She was a teacher at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parochial School in Washington until leaving the order in 1964.
Miss Benesch joined the faculty of the Lansdowne parochial school in 1964, and remained there as a primary-school teacher until her death.
"Her loyalty and love of teaching children just shined," said Mary A. Garmer, a faculty member for 40 years and principal since 1996. "She was rather formidable and strict, and for the first month or so, her new students were a little afraid of her. However, she soon became their favorite teacher."
Miss Benesch was known for innovative teaching methods, which included using puppets, and providing a friendly classroom setting.
"She always had the third-graders learn the multiplication tables by writing them out and then used flash cards," the principal said. "No one ever left her classroom without knowing them. She was famous for that."
Former pupils who would drop by the school for a visit were astonished to find that Miss Benesch was still teaching in Room 203, where she spent most of her career, Mrs. Garmer said. "The students always remembered her and when they came back to the school, they always asked for her," she said.
A memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Clement I Academy, 139 First Ave., for academy children to attend. It will end with an ice cream party.
"She wanted that for the children because she liked ice cream, and she knew they did, too," Mrs. Garmer said.
Miss Benesch enjoyed doing crewel work and embroidery. She also liked movies featuring Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Humphrey Bogart, family members said.
She was a communicant of St. Clement I Roman Catholic Church, 2700 Washington Ave., where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today.
Miss Benesch is survived by her mother, Cecelia P. Benesch of Baltimore; three brothers, Joseph Benesch of Logansville, Pa., Edward J. Benesch of Catonsville and Stanley Benesch of Forest Hill; a sister, Catherine Ann Benesch of Baltimore; and many nephews and nieces.