Melba E. Logan, a retired Baltimore public school educator whose many kindnesses to a first-grader resulted in a six-decade friendship, died Sunday of complications from dementia at FutureCare Homewood. The longtime Northwest Baltimore resident was 83.
Melba Elizabeth Rawlings was born in Baltimore and raised on Arlington Avenue. She was a 1942 graduate of Douglass High School and earned a bachelor's degree in education in 1946 from what was then Coppin Teachers College.
"She wanted to attend graduate school at Johns Hopkins University, but when she went to the admissions office, [she] was told by a woman, 'We're not ready for you people,' " said her son, Gregory H. Logan of Baltimore.
"So she went home and figured out what to do, and decided to attend the University of Pittsburgh, where she took a master's degree in education," he said.
"She often talked about the deprivations of the Depression and World War II, as well as trying to deal with Baltimore's segregationist policies," Mr. Logan said.
Mrs. Logan began her teaching career as a reading specialist in the late 1940s at Joseph Lockerman Elementary School and later taught for many years at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School. She retired in 1983 from Gilmor Elementary School.
It was while teaching at Joseph Lockerman that she became acquainted with a young pupil.
"She was my first-grade teacher 60 years ago, and she took a special interest me," said Carol J. Bell. "She was more than a teacher to me; she became a caring friend."
Mrs. Bell recalled that she wanted to learn how to play the piano, but family finances didn't permit such a luxury.
"She came to our home, spoke with my mother and offered to pay for piano lessons for me, and not only did she pay for my lessons, she'd take me to her home and made me part of her family," Mrs. Bell recalled.
"I spent weekends with her family, and I was able to see a different side of life," she said. "She exposed me to so many different things and people."
In 1949, Mrs. Bell's mother was killed in an automobile accident.
"By then I was in the second grade, but Melba still kept up with me. I remember seeing her and my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Glen, at my mother's funeral. I was 7 years old," Mrs. Bell said.
In the years that followed, Mrs. Logan never forgot the little girl who had grown into a bright young woman.
"She always remembered me at Christmas," Mrs. Bell said.
"And when it was time to go to college, I decided to become a teacher because of Melba," she said. "She inspired me to reach out to kids and be thoughtful and caring, like she had; plus, I wanted to give something back."
After Mrs. Bell graduated from Coppin in 1963, she began teaching in Baltimore public schools. She later taught in Howard County public schools for 18 years before retiring in 2004 from Forest Ridge Elementary School.
"I lived abroad when my late husband worked for the U.S. Defense Department, and I remembered when I first visited the Sistine Chapel that I thought about Melba," Mrs. Bell said. "And when I got back to the hotel, I sat down and wrote a letter thanking her for all she had done for me."
Mrs. Logan was a longtime member of Phi Delta Kappa and the National Council of Negro Women. She was an avid traveler and enjoyed planning reunions for her Douglass High class.
"I went to see her at FutureCare just before Thanksgiving, and I sat with her for an hour. I said, 'I always show up, Pretty Lady,' and then she looked up and mouthed 'Carol,' " Mrs. Bell said. "It was so heart-wrenching, and I knew then that it wouldn't be long."
Mrs. Logan was a longtime member and Sunday school superintendent at Metropolitan United Methodist Church, where she also participated in the Sara Rose Scholarship Ministry.
Services were held yesterday at her church.
Surviving are two brothers, William Rawlings Jr. of Randallstown and John Rawlings of Baltimore. Her marriage to Lawrence Logan Jr. ended in divorce.