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Gwendolyn W. Seaborne, retired Baltimore public schools educator and world traveler, dies

Gwendolyn W. Seaborne taught and taught teachers in Baltimore's public schools.
Gwendolyn W. Seaborne taught and taught teachers in Baltimore's public schools. (handout/HANDOUT)

Gwendolyn W. Seaborne, a retired career Baltimore public schools educator and world traveler, died Feb. 10 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease at the Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville. The former Hanlon Park resident was 99.

“Gwendolyn was so sweet, and she had a countenance that was so warm and affirming,” said Elizabeth E. Craig of Pikesville, a 30-year veteran of city public schools who retired in 1990 as principal of Liberty Elementary School. “I loved her as a mentor and the person she was. She was a beautiful spirit and the consummate professional."

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The former Gwendolyn Walker, daughter of Milton Walker, a postman, and his wife, Ruth Fleming Walker, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised on Druid Hill Avenue.

She was a 1938 graduate of Frederick Douglas High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1942 from what was then Coppin Normal School, now Coppin State University. From 1942 to 1946, she studied elementary education at what is now Morgan State University.

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Because African Americans were prohibited from attending graduate school in Maryland, Ms. Seaborne had to pursue her master’s degree out of state, and in 1953 she was awarded a degree in administration and supervision from New York University.

She began teaching in city public schools in 1942, and for the next 16 years taught as a classroom teacher of grades two through six. From 1955 to 1958, she was a supervising teacher training Coppin students.

“I got to know her when I was a student at Coppin and was assigned to her so she could supervise my student teaching,” Ms. Craig said. “From the first day, I knew it was going to be a wonderful experience from the way she greeted me, which of course, was very warmly. She told me that going into teaching was something you wanted to do, and even though you wouldn’t get rich, you were investing in children and you were to give them the best that you have. ”

She said that Mrs. Seaborne never found it necessary to raise her her voice in her room.

“Gwen said ‘If you speak softly, then you don’r have to scream to be heard.' If the children were noisy, she’d start moving her lips like she was talking, and the children would the get quiet so they could hear her,” Ms. Craig said. “It was a wonderful calming technique. She was full of wonderful ideas like that and one I used throughout my teaching career.”

Mrs. Seaborne was a senior teaching coordinator of programs for teachers and pupils for grades three and four from 1958 to 1959, and gave professional training to teachers from 1959 to 1964 when she was named assistant principal at Belmont Elementary School on Ellamount Street.

Mrs. Seaborne moved to the old public schools headquarters building on 25th Street as elementary supervisor, a position she held until 1973, designing programs for beginning teachers and helping experienced teachers to improve their teaching techniques.

From 1973 until retiring in 1977, Ms. Seaborne was a regional specialist in planning new facilities, organizing regional plans and setting up and implementing goals for the region.

“She was a very special person who said it was always a privilege to teach children,” Ms. Craig said. “The riches come from knowing you’ve touched lives.”

She met Wilfred M. Seaborne during her student days at Coppin in the 1930s and married him in 1944.

“He was teaching at Gilmor Elementary School then, and he’d always be out front with the kids when I walked by in the morning. He’d always say, ‘Good morning,’ as I was on my way to class,” Mrs. Seaborne told The Baltimore Sun at the time of her husband’s death in 2003. “He loved telling the story that he’d ask me to come by earlier so he’d have more time to talk with me. Every time he told that story, people would laugh,” she said.

Her husband was principal of Abbottston Elementary School at the time of his retirement in 1974.

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In 1954, the couple purchased a home on Longwood Street on what was known as “Professor’s Row," family members said, in the city’s Hanlon Park neighborhood, where they were involved in community affairs.

“It just wasn’t about teaching. Our lives did not end at 3 p.m. when the kids went home. Our day was just beginning because we had to be ready for the next day," Ms. Craig recalled. “But she always said we also had to be committed to the community in which we lived.”

“Gwen was the quintessential combination of beauty, class and intellect,” her niece, Cookie Robinson of West Baltimore, wrote in an email. “She and her sisters were Baltimore socialites and made regular trips to New York to purchase fashionable outfits and attend plays.”

Mrs. Seaborne and her husband, who were world travelers, especially enjoyed traveling by steamship with close friends. Their favorite ships included Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth II — she was a passenger on its last voyage in 2008 — and the Holland American Line’s Rotterdam.

Three years ago, Mrs. Seaborne moved to the Catonsville retirement community. She enjoyed playing bridge, swimming, and crocheting.

She was an active member and supporter of Grace Presbyterian Church, where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday,but because of the COVID-19 pandemic the church will not be open to the public. Those wishing to attend must teleconference by dialing 1-712-770-5577, and after following the prompts, add the following code: 832941#. For further information, the church telephone number is 410-466-4000.

In addition to her niece, Mrs. Seaborne is survived by a nephew, Dr. Shawn Robinson of Ellicott City.

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