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Agnes M. Lafferty, longtime tutor at Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church, dies

Agnes Lafferty tutored Baltimore elementary school students for half a century.
Agnes Lafferty tutored Baltimore elementary school students for half a century. (Handout / HANDOUT)

Agnes M. Lafferty, a longtime tutor for Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church in its elementary school tutoring program and a hospital volunteer, died Sept. 4 from a stroke at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. She was 80.

The former Agnes Mary Buhman, the daughter of Henry Buhman, president and CEO of Wallace 7 Gale Roofing Co., and his wife, Catherine Buhman, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised on Underwood Road in Guilford.

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She was a 1957 graduate of Notre Dame Preparatory School and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1961 in biology from Trinity College in Washington, D.C.

Mrs. Lafferty worked as a laboratory technician at what is now the University of Maryland Medical Center

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In 1966, she married Daniel Lafferty, an accountant. He died in 2011.

From 1967 until stepping down in 2018, Mrs. Lafferty was a volunteer tutor at Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church in its elementary school tutoring program, which pairs adult volunteers with students from four city public elementary schools, and helps them improve their reading and writing skills.

A Towson friend informed Mrs. Lafferty about the tutoring program, and after attending an orientation session, decided she’d give it a try.

“Kids like to learn,” Mrs. Lafferty explained at the time of her retirement in an interview with the church newsletter.

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“The big thing here is to work one-on-one with a student. The classroom teacher has, what, 35 kids in the room and can’t possibly address every child’s learning problems. But one-on-one and with help from Martha and Amy [program directors Martha Socolar and Amy Munds] and when you have been doing this for years and years, you figure things out.”

Ms. Socolar has been with the program for 19 years, and director since 2007.

“I’ve known Agnes all that time and she tutored here for 51 years,” said Ms. Socolar, a Guilford resident. “She was a wonderful person and was so kind, patient and dedicated to the children she tutored. She wanted to work with the more challenging children and would never give up on any of them.”

Mrs. Lafferty was devoted to the program, Ms. Socolar said, which is in operation from Monday through Thursday. Mrs. Lafferty chose to tutor one student on Monday and the other on Wednesday.

“She was always thinking about the kids, and she loved the program,” she said. “In the early years, before there were certain requirements for our drivers, Agnes would transport the kids in her car.”

“The only way kids are going to get a job and be self-sufficient is if you can read and understand things,” Mrs. Lafferty explained in the interview. “I get a lot out of it. I feel good that hopefully I can help somebody make progress.”

Ms. Socolar lamented that with Mrs. Lafferty’s death, the program would be different.

“The program is not going to feel the same without Agnes,” she said.

In addition to her work at the Bolton Hill church, Mrs. Lafferty, a longtime resident of Towson’s Wiltondale neighborhood, volunteered for decades in the cytology laboratory at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center.

“She also faithfully made casseroles for Our Daily Bread,” said Lisa Fox, Mrs. Lafferty’s next-door neighbor since 1990.

She and her husband were inveterate world travelers.

“They went around the world. They traveled out west as well to Alaska, Germany, Denmark, Austria and Norway,” said a daughter, Kathleen E. Lee of Towson.

Susan S. Wierman was also a Wilton Road neighbor.

“She was a very kind person and very friendly,” Ms. Wierman said. “She and her husband welcomed us with a steamed crab dinner when we moved into the neighborhood in 1981.”

Jean Brune was another Wiltondale neighbor, whose friendship dates to the 1950s and Notre Dame Prep.

“She loved giving and hosting an annual Christmas party for family and friends between Christmas and New Year’s,” Mrs. Brune said. “She really enjoyed gathering everyone together.”

“Agnes was the best neighbor ever and a good lady,” Mrs. Fox said. “When my kids went to school, she’d babysit one that I had at home. She was always willing to help others. If I needed to borrow an egg or some sugar, she always had it. She was special, and we’re all going to miss her.”

Mrs. Lafferty, a former communicant of St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church in Rodgers Forge, attended services in the chapel at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center.

A memorial Mass will be offered at noon Saturday in the chapel of Notre Dame Preparatory School, 815 Hampton Lane, Towson.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by a son, Mark K. Lafferty of Sparks; another daughter, Jennifer A. O’Connor of San Clementre, California; and four grandchildren.

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