As principal at the former Walbrook High School, Anne O. Emery referred to the students as her children.
As a longtime resident of Ashburton, she proudly proclaimed it to be her neighborhood.
And with her late husband, Vallen L. Emery Sr., she was a founder of Heritage United Church of Christ in 1963.
Dr. Emery, a highly revered educator who brought a passionate and steady voice to the Baltimore community for decades, died Wednesday morning at Gilchrist Center-Hospice Care in Towson of multiple myeloma. She was 93.
Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. visited the Emery home during his high school days at Gilman, where he played football with Dr. Emery’s late son, Travis. When Mr. Ehrlich was in office, he invited Dr. Emery to the governor’s mansion to get her advice on educational policies and other community topics in Baltimore.
She was “a huge presence — strong personality, strong opinions,” Mr. Ehrlich said. “She’s one of those you meet in life that when they sit down, they fill the room. She was someone you wanted on your side because she was such a presence, an acknowledged leader on so many issues — particularly education-related — and she let you know where she stood. She was universally respected.”
The only child of Ullman Carl Osborn, a principal, and Lura Charlotte Huntington Osborn, a teacher and musician, Anne Osborn was born and raised in Thomasville, Alabama, where she graduated from high school in the 10th grade before attending Alabama A & M Preparatory School.
She received a bachelor’s degree at Tuskegee University and later earned a master’s degree in education from what was then Morgan State College and a doctorate in education from Temple University.
After starting her career as a teacher in Louisiana, she and her family moved to Baltimore in 1960, and she became a vice principal at Lemmel Junior High School.
The Emery family, which included three sons, first lived in East Baltimore for five years before moving to Ashburton. She lived there for the remainder of her life.
She became principal at Walbrook when the school opened in 1971 and continued through 1980 before becoming an assistant schools superintendent. She retired from that position in 1989.
Gus Harrington, a longtime teacher and former boys basketball coach at Walbrook, met Dr. Emery in church and said she was responsible for getting him his start at the West Baltimore school.
“She was just a fantastic person, and there’s probably not enough words to describe the type person she was,” he said. “She was empathetic, compassionate, and she would help people at the drop of a pen if you needed it. She was all about the kids and the people she worked with. She was the person who inspired the people who worked around her because she wanted to see us grow, too.”
Mr. Harrington went on to become a principal at a neighboring school before retiring. When asked if Mrs. Emery was a major influence in his moving up the ranks to the administrative position, he said: “No doubt about it. No doubt about it. No doubt about it.”
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In addition to her commitment to family, work and church, she was heavily involved in public service. She was chartering president of the Baltimore Chapter of 100 Black Women and a member of the Baltimore City Commission for Women. Governor Ehrlich appointed her to the Maryland Higher Education Commission. She also chaired the board of directors of Bluford Drew Jemison STEM Academy.
“She was a dynamic figure,” said former Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. “She was a leader in the Ashburton community for decades and loved that neighborhood, worked hard to preserve it and took great pride in it. When people talked about negative aspects of Baltimore, she would point to the pride of the Ashburton neighborhood as a real example of the best of Baltimore.”
Dr. Emery loved playing bridge with her late husband, who died in 2004 after 56 years of marriage, and they often traveled to tournaments. She also enjoyed cooking and spending time with family.
“As worldly as she was, she loved doing things with her family,” said Michele McNeill-Emery, a daughter-in-law who lives in Baltimore.
In addition to her daughter-in-law, survivors include one son, Dr. Vallen L. Emery Jr. of Baltimore, six grandchildren, three great-grandsons and two other daughters-in-law. In addition to her son, Travis Emery, who died in 2016, another son, Gregory Emery, died in 2000.