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Jean Julius Goldsmith, schools music supervisor, dies

Jean Goldsmith was a world traveler.
Jean Goldsmith was a world traveler. (Jed Kirschbaum)

Jean Julius Goldsmith, a retired Baltimore City Public Schools music supervisor and teacher recalled for her outgoing personality and soprano singing voice, died of dementia complications March 22 at the Maryland Masonic Home. She was 94 and lived in Cockeysville.

Born Jean Vashti Julius, she was the daughter of Robert Milton Julius Sr. and his wife, Naomi, a Baltimore City Public Schools teacher. They family resided on Druid Hill Avenue in the Sugar Hill neighborhood.

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She was a 1943 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School and earned a degree at Coppin State University. She also studied at the Hampton Institute.

She moved to New York City to get a master’s degree in music from Columbia University at a time when Maryland Blacks were not allowed to receive graduate school training in her field of study.

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While in New York, she met Daniel Goldsmith, a teacher at a boys’ private school. They married in Washington, D.C., because Maryland did not allow an African American woman to marry a white man. She called him “the love of my life.”

Ms. Goldsmith served for many years as a music teacher in the Baltimore public schools system. She additionally taught piano to private students.

“She had a Steinway grand piano. It nearly filled the living room,” said Greg Sesek, a friend. “She moved the piano from New York to Baltimore to Cockeysville. We would often play for one another.

“She was a scholar of the African American composer R. Nathaniel Dett. She often played his compositions,” said Mr. Sesek, who is organist and choirmaster at Sherwood Episcopal Church. “She was a champion of his music.”

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She and her husband settled in Baltimore and lived in the Village of Cross Keys.

She told of shopping at Eddie’s in Roland Park and being mistaken for a domestic servant. A customer, thinking she was a housekeeper, asked, “Who do you work for?”

She replied, “And who do you work for?” She then explained she was a music supervisor for Baltimore City Public Schools.

She taught at Thomas Hayes School No. 147 and at numerous other city schools.

“My aunt was multitalented, and with infectious joie de vivre. Jean led a very active life in retirement,” said her niece, Joanne Hunold of Winthrop, Washington. “She traveled the world, collecting both experiences and artifacts along the way. We will greatly miss her exuberant spirit, laughter, kindness, feistiness, and joyous embrace of life.”

She enjoyed ocean travel and sailed aboard the Queen Elizabeth II.

In addition to playing piano, she also played the recorder.

Family members said she was an accomplished seamstress and created stylish outfits.

“She enjoyed cooking with exotic spices and condiments. She was known for her homemade watermelon pickles,” said her niece.

For many years she traveled China and shopped for silks.

Mr. Sesek said, “She had a tailor in Asia and got her suits made there.” She also made clothes for herself.

Ms. Goldsmith was featured in a 1999 Sun article about Baltimore County residents who worked out in senior center gyms.

“I live alone, and I know I’m responsible for myself, so I’ve got to keep in shape,” said she said in the article.

She was a long-standing member of Sherwood Episcopal Church and sang in its choir. She was also a member of the Order of the Eastern Star.

“She was a beautiful soprano,” said Mr. Sesek. “She was a beautiful person. She was my role model of resilience and living with dignity on your own terms.

“She battled for her own identity. She told of shopping New York at Bloomingdale’s and using a charge card. When she handed the card to make a purchase, it said Jean Goldsmith. The clerk challenged her as a Black woman — the clerk thought she had stolen it. Security would be called.

“Incidents like this did not stop. She kept on shopping,” Mr. Sesek.

Jean Bonta, a friend from Cockeysville, recalled that Ms. Goldsmith also taught music at the Ashland Preschool Center.

“Jean was truly an artistic person,” Ms. Bonta said. “It was interesting to travel with Jean. She said, ‘They aren’t too many Black girls named Goldsmith.’

“We were in a Timonium restaurant, and we noticed people staring at us. Jean got up, hugged me, and said in voice the people looking at us could hear, ‘Goodbye Mother, I’ll see you next week.’ ”

“She had a wonderful sense of humor and was generous with time and with her music,” said John “Jack” Turnbull, a member of her church choir. “She loved passing the peace in the congregation.”

In addition her niece, survivors include four nephews, Jerome Donald Julius Jr. of Annapolis, Michael David Julius of Crofton, Paul Julius of Waldorf and Patrick Julius of Arlington, Virginia; and three other nieces, Catherine Butler of Germantown, Barbara Jean Julius of Lanham and Nancy Johnson of Upper Marlboro. Her husband died in 1997.

Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.

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