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Iona C. Dorn, longtime Baltimore County public schools educator and historian, dies

Iona C. Dorn, a veteran Baltimore County public schools educator who maintained a lifelong interest in county and Maryland history, died Monday at Genesis Cromwell Center in Parkville from complications from an infection. The longtime Phoenix, Baltimore County, resident, was 98.

The former Iona Mae Claytor was born in Baltimore, the daughter of Thomas L. Claytor, a farmer, and his wife, Wilhelmina Groth Claytor, a Curtis Bay Coast Guard Yard sailmaker.

When she was 2 years old, she moved to the Brooklyn home of an uncle and aunt, Floyd Musk, and his wife, Ethel Musk, who raised their niece.

She was a 1938 graduate of Southern High School, where she was class valedictorian, and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1942 in education from what is now Towson University. She later earned a master’s degree in education following studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, and the Johns Hopkins University.

While at Towson, she met and fell in loved with Frank Eugene Dorn, whom she married in 1942.

From 1942 to 1944, she was on the faculty of a Baltimore parochial school, joining the faculty of Brooklyn Elementary School in 1944.

In 1948, Mrs. Dorn began teaching at Carroll Manor Elementary School, and at times, when there was overcrowding, at annex schools in Fork and Cockeysville.

Mrs. Dorn continued teaching first- and second-graders at Carroll Manor until her retirement in 1979.

“I was in the first-grade at Fork Elementary when I first met Mrs. Dorn in 1956,” said John C. Russo, a retired Baltimore County Natural Resources specialist, who remained friends until her death.

“She was a great teacher, and that’s why I kept in touch with her,” said Mr. Russo, a Cockeysville resident. “She was soft-spoken and very kind. I just can’t say enough about her.She was a very caring person.”

In 1943, Mrs. Dorn and her husband purchased property in Phoenix, where she helped design and build their home, and where she lived for the remainder of her life.

A Maryland history buff, she naturally became interested in Baltimore County history, and especially the surrounding area where she lived.

“She knew the area and the old families and had a genuine interest in the neighborhood,” Mr. Russo said.

“I was also a history buff,” said Mr. Russo, who explained that he and his former teacher became interested in a small family cemetery off Blenheim Road in Phoenix that had once been on the farm of the Kolk family and where the sister-in-law of William Paca, a Maryland signer of the Declaration of Independence who later was governor, purportedly had been interred.

“I knew about since my childhood,” Mr. Russo said.

The property was eventually sold, developers built houses and the old cemetery disappeared.

“I was able to find it through old land deeds, I like looking through them, and from aerial photos,” Mr. Russo said. “It was an 80 x 80 foot plot of land and the developers built around it. Today, it’s just a grass plot,” Mr. Russo said.

“I knew it in the early 1950s when I was in the Boy Scouts, when there were still headstones in the cemetery,” said her son, Frank E. Dorn Jr., a Phoenix, Baltimore County, resident. “The Kolk land was a land grant from Lord Baltimore, and I believe it predates My Lady’s Manor by a year.”

She had collected a library of books and articles on Maryland and Baltimore County history, family members said.

“She was a wealth of historic information,” said Celaine S. Montague, a Glen Arm resident.

Mrs. Dorn was an active member of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Sweet Air for more than 70 years.

She was a Sunday school teacher there for more than 40 years, studied Scripture in numerous Bible study classes, and served on various congregational committees.

“She generously supported the church and dozens of charities,” her daughter, Terry D. Williams of Davidsonville, wrote in a biographical profile of her mother..

“She was passionate in her promotion of adherence to Scripture in the Lutheran Church at local, synod, and national levels,” she wrote. “Later in life, she made it her mission to support the family spirituality, and challenge each of them to establish and maintain a personal relationship with the Lord.”

“I knew her through our church, and we became very good friends. She was also very involved with adult classes,” Mrs. Montague said. “She grew raspberries and for your birthday, she’d give you a jar. She was very active until the past year.“

She added: “Iona was a lovely, lovely woman and a lot of fun. She was the kind of person who was always concerned about others.”

Mrs. Dorn was an active member of the Churchville and Jacksonville senior centers, where she enjoyed exercising,

Mrs. Dorn also enjoyed attending services at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Glen Arm.

“I’m glad to have known her all of these years, and that I was still able to tell her how much she touched my life,” Mr. Russo said.

Her husband of 38 years, who had been an Anne Arundel and Baltimore County public schools teacher and coach, died in 1979.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3911 Sweet Air Road, Phoenix, Baltimore County..

In addition to her son and daughter, she is survived by seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

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fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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