T homas Hal Gomer, a retired Brooklyn Park High School educator, artist and drama coach, died Nov. 27 of heart failure at Baltimore Washington Medical Center. The Linthicum resident was 77.
Dr. Gomer was born and raised in Bowling Green, Ky. After earning his bachelor's and master's degrees from Western Kentucky University, he enlisted in the Army, serving as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division.
In 1956, he joined the faculty of the old Brooklyn Park High School as an art teacher, and later added teaching drama and directing high school theatrical productions to his duties.
In addition to his teaching responsibilities and directing plays, Dr. Gomer took graduate courses for years in the evening at the Maryland Institute College of Art, where he earned a doctorate in art.
A popular teacher, Dr. Gomer also enjoyed serving as senior class adviser and yearbook sponsor for years. He retired in 1983.
"He was a pivotal person in my life and opened my eyes to style and taste," said Joe Gold, who graduated from Brooklyn Park High School in 1977 and remained a lifelong friend.
"He was an amazing art teacher who could work in any medium - oil, watercolors or acrylics," Mr. Gold said.
Dr. Gomer also taught art at what was then Catonsville Community College for years. He contributed his artwork to exhibitions held at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Annapolis Fine Arts Festival and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington.
His artwork was also the subject of one-man shows in Baltimore, Alexandria, Va., New York City and Venezuela.
Dr. Gomer's work earned him an Anne Arundel County Arts Council Award for Lifetime Achievement last year for his paintings, graphics and interior design.
"His last one-man show in Catonsville sold out in one day. He was a remarkable artist and an extremely talented and self-effacing man," said Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Lynne A. Battaglia, whose former husband was a cousin of Dr. Gomer's.
"We used to laugh because I told him I inherited him after my divorce, and that he was now my cousin. He was a wonderful addition to my life, and I'm glad for that," Judge Battaglia said.
"He was a complicated man, a lifetime bachelor, and something of a curmudgeon," she said. "However, he had an enormous amount of friends, and he was always so willing to give of himself and share his abilities."
She said that every room in her home had shown some touch of Dr. Gomer's or included a piece of his artwork.
Judge Battaglia said she was also a fan of Dr. Gomer's student theatrical productions, which were held in the school's auditorium. The site has now become the Chesapeake Arts Center.
"They were of a remarkably high level and quality, and he enjoyed introducing both students and the community to new theater," she said. "He also worked very hard because he was doing a new production every six weeks, which meant he'd be working at school late into the night."
She added: "He was a hard taskmaster and had high expectations for the kids, and they responded."
Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Ronald A. Silkworth met Dr. Gomer when he was in the seventh grade.
"I first met him at Brooklyn Park High School in 1962, and he was an extremely talented man. I think he was the most talented man I've ever met in my life," Judge Silkworth said yesterday.
"My older sister was in one of his high school classes, and he was preparing to do a production of The Prince and the Pauper. He asked if anyone knew of twin boys, and she raised her hand and said her brothers were twins" Judge Silkworth said. "That's how I got to meet him, and when I first saw him, here was this very large and interesting man."
Judge Silkworth recalled Dr. Gomer's patience.
"He had a way of focusing you and didn't have to tell you how to do it," he said.
When Judge Silkworth was a sophomore, he reconnected with Dr. Gomer, who immediately drafted him for roles in The King and I, C harley's Aunt, Brigadoon, Anastasia and The Boy Friend.
"And the list goes on. I think it was at least 20 productions," Judge Silkworth said.
Judge Silkworth praised Dr. Gomer's ability to involve students in scene design, set painting, lights, gathering props or making costumes.
After Judge Silkworth graduated and was starting his freshman year at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, his phone rang one day. It was Dr. Gomer offering him a role in Our Town.
"Of course, I took it," he said, laughing.
In his retirement, Dr. Gomer continued to paint and was a volunteer set designer at the Chesapeake Arts Center.
"Gomer was a character and awfully brilliant. He liked being called Gomer, and after I graduated, we stayed close friends," Judge Silkworth said.
"He was incredibly unique and he touched so many students' lives," Judge Silkworth said. "I wish there were more Gomers."
Dr. Gomer was a longtime volunteer and member of Linthicum Heights United Methodist Church, 200 School Lane, Linthicum Heights, where services will be held at 1 p.m. today.
He has no immediate survivors.