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Barbara Gear, 63, teacher, science fiction enthusiast


Barbara B. "Bobby" Gear, an English, reading and social studies teacher who was an educational activist, died of complications of pancreatic cancer Saturday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The Columbia resident was 63.

Born Barbara Ann Butcher in Cleveland, she earned an art history degree from Ohio State University in Columbus and a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she continued to take courses.

She was hired as a teacher by the Prince George's County school system in 1967 and was assigned initially to Montpelier Elementary School in Laurel. At her death, she was on the faculty of Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi.

"She loved her students," said her husband of 43 years, Alexander Martin Gear, a self-employed government contracts consultant. "Her line was, 'I always ask too much. It is the least I can do.' She would challenge the students as far as they could take it."

Family members said she maintained her own classroom library, and often bought the books for it. "She wanted the kids to learn the best they could, and did whatever that took," her husband said.

A member and past treasurer of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, she helped run its annual convention, known as Balticon.

She organized a fund-raising auction held during Balticon for a Reading Is Fundamental program at her school, which has numerous pupils who are learning English as a second language. The auction raised money so that each of her middle-schoolers could get at least three free books every year.

She was a founding member of the Greater Columbia Fantasy Costumers' Guild, a local chapter of the International Costumers' Guild, of which she also was a member.

Mrs. Gear made costumes based upon characters from illustrations or authors' descriptions in science fiction or fantasy works. She helped run masquerade events at science fiction conventions - along them Bucconeer, the 56th annual World Science Fiction Convention held in Baltimore in 1998.

She was an accomplished quilter, winning awards at the Howard County Fair, Maryland State Fair and the 1993 Hoffman Challenge, a national wearable-art competition sponsored by a fabric business.

Plans for a memorial service were incomplete.

In addition to her husband, survivors include two sons, Daniel Melville Gear of Monroe, Va., and John Martin Gear of Lansing, Mich.; a brother, Noll Butcher of Columbus, Ohio; and five grandchildren.

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