Carolyn A. Michael, a former Carroll County elementary school educator who remained an important presence in the lives of many of her former pupils, died of breast cancer Sunday at her Union Bridge home. She was 56.
"Carolyn had a special place in the hearts of all the students she taught," said Mary E. Stong, a longtime friend who is principal of Elmer A. Wolfe Elementary School in Union Bridge. "Through the years, she planted so many seeds."
Mrs. Michael, the former Carolyn Ann Kay, was born and raised in the Philadelphia area. In 1969, she earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Shippensburg State College. She also earned a master's degree in elementary education, also from Shippensburg, in 1972.
Mrs. Michael, who had taught school in Gettysburg, Pa., for four years, began teaching in Carroll County in 1973.
She taught at Uniontown Elementary School and after its closing joined the faculty of Runnymede Elementary School in Westminster.
Mrs. Michael, who found to have breast cancer 15 years ago, retired last year.
"She was the type of teacher that every child should have," Dr. Stong said. "She treated each of them as if they were her own. She cared about every child who crossed her path. And she also meant a lot to a lot of parents because she put her heart and mind into her teaching."
Mrs. Michael did not fade from the minds of her former pupils with the passing of the years. For them, she remained a strong and vital presence, and they continued dropping by her school or home for visits.
"On Christmas Eve, a student visited me and, after hearing about Carolyn, left my house and went and visited her," Dr. Stong said.
"The comments I'm most hearing about her - and these are from people who are in college or grown - range from 'She was the one that turned my life around' ... 'I'll never forget her' ... 'She was the teacher that meant the most to me.'"
Despite her illness, Mrs. Michael remained in teaching as long as she could.
"I adjusted her schedule so she could keep working with her students during her chemotherapy treatments," Dr. Stong said.
Mrs. Michael had been married since 1969 to the Rev. Richard L. Michael, pastor of St. James Lutheran Church in Union Bridge and Mount Union Church near Union Bridge.
At both churches, she served for many years as chairwoman of the worship committee. She also was organist and choir director at both.
During the summer, Mrs. Michael taught at the Union Bridge Community Vacation Bible School.
Her professional memberships included the Carroll County Education Association, Maryland State Teachers Association and National Education Association.
An avid reader, Mrs. Michael enjoyed reading mysteries and books on history. She also enjoyed camping with her family.
Services will be held at 1 p.m. today at Union Bridge Church of the Brethren, Main and Church streets, Union Bridge.
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Michael is survived by a son, Thomas J. Michael of Chevy Chase; two daughters, Jennifer L. Michael of Randallstown and Tiffany A. Michael of Union Bridge; a brother, W. David Kay of Urbana, Ill.; and a granddaughter.