Marion H. Pelton

The Baltimore Sun

Marion Henrietta Pelton, a retired educator who was one of the first psychologists for Baltimore County public schools, died Tuesday of complications from old age at Bel Air Health and Rehabilitation Center in Bel Air. The longtime Lutherville resident was 95.

Born in Erie, Pa., Ms. Pelton attended Academy High there until her senior year. She graduated in 1930 from Deering High School in Portland, Maine.

In 1934, she earned a bachelor's degree in kindergarten-primary curriculum from what is now Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

She began her education career in 1934 at Perry School in Erie, Pa., where she taught math, reading, spelling and physical training to third through sixth grades. She coached boys' basketball.

In 1943, Ms. Pelton joined the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, which later that year became the Women's Army Corps. She completed basic training at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., and administration school in Denton, Texas.

Her first assignment was as a classification specialist at Fort Devens, Mass., where she assisted incoming recruits and provided information about employment, health insurance and education to departing servicewomen. She later was assigned to the Pentagon, where she worked as a clerk-typist in military intelligence.

Ms. Pelton also counseled returning World War II veterans. She was honorably discharged in 1945 with the rank of sergeant.

She was a charter member of the Women in Military Service for America at the Women's Memorial in Washington, which was created in 1997.

In 1947, she earned a master's degree in vocational counseling from George Washington University in Washington. For the next two years, she was a psychologist at the Norfolk Regional Consultation Service in Norfolk, Va.

She moved to Annapolis in 1949 and became a vocational guidance counselor at Annapolis Junior High School.

In 1954, she became one of the first school psychologists for the Baltimore County system.

Charles Leiman, who was supervisor of the system's school psychologists from 1958 until his retirement in 1978, recalled Ms. Pelton as caring, dedicated and conscientious.

"She would spend hours with a youngster," said Mr. Leiman."She never married or had children. School kids were her family."

Ms. Pelton, who was assigned to schools in the Essex-Dundalk-Rosedale area, joined the school system at a time when educators were beginning to recognize the significance of psychological factors on a child's ability to learn, Mr. Leiman said.

School psychologists, who are trained to administer psychological tests to gauge intelligence, aptitude and emotions, help uncover learning problems, he said.

"When I began working in Baltimore County in 1958, the system had seven school psychologists," he said. "When I left in 1978, we had 30 school psychologists. Now, there are more than 60. That gives you some idea of how they grew and their importance."

Ms. Pelton evaluated children's learning abilities and disabilities to help the school system meet their educational needs, Mr. Leiman said.

In 1973, she retired from the school system.

Patricia Turner, a fellow school psychologist, said she met Ms. Pelton in 1970.

"I considered her a mentor," said Mrs. Turner, 67.

Ms. Pelton was an avid reader, her friend recalled.

"She read everything," Mrs. Turner said. "When she went to the library, she would bring 10 or 12 books home. She had a TV that didn't work and she never bothered to get it fixed."

Ms. Pelton also loved sailing on the Chesapeake Bay, bird-watching, golfing and canoeing.

"She took me on my one and only whitewater rapids trip," said Mrs. Turner, who added that she was less adventuresome than her friend. "It was the Fourth of July in 1974 in Virginia at Shenandoah. We rented a canoe and took off down the river."

Ms. Pelton was intrigued by meditation techniques and twice traveled to Hawaii to study the subject. For many years, she attended weekly healing services at Mount Washington Methodist Church in Baltimore.

"She was always looking for ways to grow emotionally and spiritually," Mrs. Turner said.

A graveside service was held Thursday at Churchville Presbyterian Church in Harford County. Ms. Pelton was buried with full military honors at the church's cemetery, Mrs. Turner said.

Ms. Pelton's three brothers and two sisters predeceased her. She is survived by two nieces, Doreen Foley of Ukiah, Calif., and Penny Lane of Silver Spring, Nev.; and two nephews, Don Pelton of Mountain View, Calif., and Allan Pelton of Ramona, Calif.

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