Elaine Guice's third-graders at Cockeysville Elementary School loved her class so much that they kept her as a teacher in the fourth and fifth grades, too.
That was nearly 70 years ago, and the students never forgot her. In recent years, about two dozen of them and their spouses continued to meet her for lunch every month for reunions.
They were supposed to have one such reunion yesterday, but Guice died at age 87 last month after suffering from pulmonary fibrosis for nearly 20 years. So the students met instead for a memorial in celebration of her life.
About 250 people filled the gymnasium and cafeteria for the memorial at Edgemere Elementary School, the last school where Guice taught before retiring in 1979. In attendance were grandchildren, children, fellow teachers and neighbors.
And there, with silver hair and bifocals, were the former students Guice liked to call her "Cockeysville Kids," most of whom turned 73 this year.
She taught them from 1943 to 1945 during her first teaching job. She was single back then, and her name was Miss Reynolds.
She resigned in 1945 to marry Thomas "Jack" Guice, a Coast Guardsman stationed at Curtis Bay, whom she met at a dance at the Boumi Temple in Baltimore.
That last day of class, she put her married name and new address on the blackboard and told the students she would miss them.
"We all had tears in our eyes," Emma Lou Isennock, one of the students, recalled.
Decades passed before she would see most of the kids again. She would teach in Portland, Maine, and then at Edgemere Elementary for 28 years. The students would go on to graduate from high school, raise families and retire from long careers - some as teachers.
Then, several years ago, Guice's son-in-law, John Lutz, was talking to his co-worker, John Polley, about his family. Lutz mentioned that his mother-in-law was once a teacher in Cockeysville. When Lutz said Guice's maiden name, Polley knew it was the teacher he loved so much in elementary school.
Soon, Polley and Guice arranged a lunch and became fast friends. He invited her to the 50th class reunion of Towson High School, which many of the Cockeysville Kids attended. Guice couldn't make it, so Polley passed out cards with her picture and phone number.
Soon Guice was getting calls from former students. Then she started tracking down students herself.
Several of them stood on stage at the memorial yesterday and recalled getting her phone call.
Larry Pinkner said that when Guice called, his wife thought it was a "crazy lady selling stuff" and hung up.
"Luckily, she called back," he said.
It took him a minute to figure out who she was. But then the old memories of his smiling teacher began coming back, Pinkner said.
At the first meeting, Guice brought old class pictures and they all tried to pick each other out. Then she told them old stories about themselves.
The initial luncheons were months apart, but then they would get closer and closer together. In the past few years, they began to meet monthly. Three years ago, Guice threw a 70th birthday party for her former students.
They usually met at the same place in Timonium: Bowman's, which was later renamed the Charred Rib Lounge.
"We were all getting to be a real close bunch with our luncheons," Polley said.
The Cockeysville Kids remembered Guice as an affectionate teacher who would give her students hugs and play kickball and baseball with them in the schoolyard. She taught them to say their multiplication and division tables in three minutes.
Her students watched yesterday as a slide show played, showing Guice as a baby in a bathtub, as a young girl with a pixie cut and as an older woman with her grandchildren. Friends and family remembered Guice as an avid Orioles fan who insisted deviled eggs be served at every party. They told stories of her cross-country camping trips.
Afterward, the students vowed to keep the luncheons going in her memory.
Her family wanted the students to serve a special role at the memorial because the luncheons had meant so much to her.
"She looked forward to the luncheons and always wanted to be the first one there to greet them," said her eldest daughter, Debbie Lutz. "She had a lot going on in her life, but the luncheons were special to her because these were her Cockeysville Kids."