Bertha Lee Rundles, a retired Howard County Schools instructional assistant who was active in Locust United Methodist Church, dies

Bertha Lee Rundles was coordinator of an honors program at Locust United Methodist Church.

Bertha Lee Rundles, a retired Howard County Schools instructional assistant who was active in Locust United Methodist Church, died of cancer and complications from old age Nov. 16 at her home in Kansas City, Missouri. She was 91 and had lived in the village of Oakland Mills in Columbia.

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and raised in Muskogee, she was the daughter of Famous McElwee Sr., a municipal worker, and Arizona McElwee, a homemaker.


She attended Langston Elementary School and was a graduate of Manual Training High School.

At age 20, she married Charles Rundles, who was then serving in the Army. The couple were posted to Germany, and he later joined General Electric in Detroit. He also worked in Utica, New York. They moved to Columbia in the 1970s when he took a job at General Electric’s local facility.


Mrs. Rundles became a teller for the old Maryland National Bank.

When Running Brook Elementary School opened in 1971, she joined its faculty as an instructional assistant and remained at that job until her 1996 retirement.

A Baltimore Sun story noted that Mrs. Rundles was one of three original people who remained at the school to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

She had been a member of Locust United Methodist Church on Martin Road in 1977.

Her niece Carla Rainey said: “She was a bubbly lady, but she could be cantankerous, too. She had a big smile, loved people and liked to be on the go. On her typical day, she might be slow to start, but once she got going, she kept going.”

Mrs. Rundles had several roles in her church congregation. A soprano, she sang in three choirs and belonged to a sisterhood, the United Methodist Women in Faith. She also was coordinator of an honors program, the mother- and father-of-the-year awards.

She worked with the pastor to select music for the Sunday services.

“She had a library of music. If you needed the music, she had it. If you needed the words, she had those, too,” said a church friend, Dianna Woodlon.


She was a member of the Bible study groups and the Mature Christian Club. She was a volunteer with a church group called SHARE.

“I called her our official church comedian,” Mrs. Woodlon said. “She could provide some jokes, and she knew how to tell them.”

Mrs. Rundles regularly visited residents at the Lorien Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, and was part of a group that held religious services.

She also worked on the team that prepared food for church repasts.

“She was a good cook and always brought the green beans. Everyone looked forward to her dish, and she had a special pan for them,” Mrs. Woodlon said. “She often made meals for people in the congregation who were sick or had surgery.

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“She had a huge heart. She could hold her own. She liked to drive — she wasn’t afraid of the highway. She liked a good bargain and hit the different shopping centers. She liked the thrift stores, too — Second Avenue, Goodwill and Salvation Army.


She also said Mrs. Rundles spent the month of July with her family in Missouri.

“She was 90 years old when she decided she wanted to pack up and move to Kansas City, Missouri,” Mrs. Woodlon said. “After a brief time living with her sister, she moved into her own apartment, where she remained.”

Mrs. Rundles was a fan of the “Judge Judy” TV program. Her friends knew not to call at that time.

Survivors include her sister, Marie Rainey of Kansas City, and nieces and nephews. Her husband of 50 years died in 2001. Her son, Keith Rundles, who owned a custom automotive business, died in 2018.

Services were held Nov. 25 in Kansas City.