James M. "Jim" Dubel, whose varied life led from the sea to the classroom, where he elevated the study and application of grammar for his students, died of cancer Wednesday at Stella Maris Hospice.
The Essex resident was 63.
"He was one of my smartest children and a free spirit," said Robert Y. Dubel, his father, who headed Baltimore County public schools for 16 years before retiring in 1992.
"He was a writer and loved grammar and the nuance of words. He was such a grammarian that he corrected the whole family, even me," Dr. Dubel said with a laugh.
"He loved grammar and would sit there listening to network commentators and would correct their grammar. I told him that they ought to hire him to teach those correspondents correct English," said his father, a resident of Glen Arm.
The son of Dr. Dubel and Helen Miles Dubel, James Miles Dubel was born in Baltimore and raised in the Villa Nova neighborhood of Baltimore County.
After graduating from Milford Mill High School, he earned a bachelor's degree in English from Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College, in 1974.
He worked construction and later earned his Coast Guard captain's license.
"He earned it through self-study and then sat for the exam," his father said of the captain's license.
"He loved the water, sailing and being down at the beach," said Dr. Dubel. "For a time, he was a captain of an Inner Harbor water shuttle and later ferried people's boats and yachts from Canada and New England to Florida and the islands."
Mr. Dubel was in his 50s when he returned to Towson University, where he earned a master's degree in writing.
From 2000 to 2010, he was a part-time faculty member at the Dundalk campus of the Community College of Baltimore County, teaching entry-level English classes.
"He liked teaching young people who needed a lot of remedial work," his father said.
Allen L. Stockett of Towson was a friend and part-time colleague at the college.
"I'd say Jim was a Renaissance man. What stands out was the meticulous attention he paid to grammatical detail, and he insisted on standard usage in class and essays," said Mr. Stockett, who also taught for 30 years at Dundalk High School before retiring in 1998.
"As a person, Jim was very, very generous with his ideas, materials, and was interested in other people," said Mr. Stockett, who said he sought his friend's counsel on grammatical questions. "He was very loyal, kind and soft-spoken. He was very devoted to his parents."
Mr. Dubel's performance earned him numerous letters of praise, sent to Brenda Stevens, who was department chair. In 2005, Tracy Logan, a student, wrote to say that "learning grammar has not been as easy as I expected. … When [Mr. Dubel] was on a subject he did not rush the learning process. He would give us time to ask questions."
Student Thomas Borkowicz wrote of the class: "What a joy it has been. Jim Dubel made learning fun. … I've always suffered from test anxiety, but with the support I was given, this was not an issue."
"I never liked English before, but because of Mr. Dubel's intelligence, calmness and broad knowledge of English, he gave me the incentive to go on," wrote Monica Haute in 2005. "I have learned more from him than any teacher I have ever had."
From 2010 to 2013, he was an instructor at TESST College of Technology in Baltimore, Dr. Dubel said.
In addition to his classroom work, Mr. Dubel enjoyed writing short stories and listening to rock 'n' roll and music from the 1960s.
"My parents liked listening to big-band music, and Jim had a love for rock 'n' roll. Because he was a writer, he was always interested in the lyrics and what they meant," said his sister, Rebecca Dubel Snodderly of Reisterstown, who teaches fifth grade at Franklin Elementary School.
Ms. Snodderly said that Mr. dubel and their parents would come to her home on Sunday afternoons to listen to music, play records and "connect with his nieces and nephews."
"Jim was a history buff. He loved England," his sister said. "We knew we could count on him if we were writing a speech or paper. He was our professional grammar person if we were seeking advice."
A memorial service for Mr. Dubel will be held at 11 a.m. April 9 in the Great Hall at the Glen Meadows Retirement Community, 11630 Glen Arm Road, Glen Arm.
In addition to his father and sister, he is survived by another brother, Kenneth Young Dubel of Elkton, Va.; and many nieces and nephews.