John F. Bailey Sr., a retired Baltimore County Public Schools educator who had careers in both the classroom and personnel, died Dec. 4 from COVID-19 at Good Samaritan Hospital. The Perry Hall resident was 84.
“John was my hero and a real leader,” said Robert Y. Dubel, who headed Baltimore County public schools for 16 years before retiring in 1992. “After working a full-time job, he went home and helped raise two of their sons with his wife, Marion, who had muscular dystrophy, at night. They both lived to adulthood because of the good care that John and Marion gave them.”
John Francis Bailey Sr., son of R. Shaffer Bailey and his wife, Mary Bailey, who were both educators, was born in Thurmont and raised on the family farm.
After graduating in 1954 from Thurmont High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1959 from what is now Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, later obtaining a master’s degree in education administration from what is now Loyola University Maryland.
While at the Mount, Mr. Bailey was student manager for the basketball team, coached by the legendary Jim Phelan.
In 1960, he began teaching at Hereford Middle and High School, and three years later moved into personnel, where he remained until retiring in 1993. During his tenure in personnel, he was responsible for hiring more than a thousand teachers.
“In the 1970s and 1980s, we launched a vigorous campaign to hire African American teachers, and John was the leader of that effort,” said Dr. Dubel, a Glen Arm resident. “That effort went from Baltimore to New Orleans and all through the South. He had a sparkling personality that seemed to reassure minority teachers, and because of it we were extremely successful in getting a high percentage of African American teachers by the end of the 1970s.”
Mr. Bailey married the former Marion L. Fries, a registered nurse, and together the couple raised four children. In 1971, two sons, Stephen M. Bailey and Thomas C. Bailey, were diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
“The doctors told my parents that they would not survive into adulthood,” a daughter, Carol Anne Celozzi of Perry Hall, said in a telephone interview. “Tom died at 32 in 1999, and Stephen was 51 when he died in 2017. They lived very full lives despite their disability.”
In a biographical profile of her father, Ms. Celozi wrote of her parents: “The daily care of my brothers encompassed dressing them, feeding them, showering them, helping them use the bathroom, brushing their teeth, getting them to school and social engagements they wanted to attend, getting them to and from community college, taking them to bowling and soccer as well as Bible studies and providing them the dignity of living ‘normal’ lives despite their disabilities.”
Mr. Bailey and his wife, who died in 2013, were mentors to other parents who were members of the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Maryland.
He was also known for his generosity and would help people who needed money or even a new car. “There are at least three people I know that he purchased cars for,” his daughter said.
Mr. Bailey was presented the Simon Brute Medal from Mount St. Mary’s in 1995 in recognition of his philanthropy to the university and community service.
He was an avid vegetable gardener who shared his bounty with neighbors from a wheelbarrow that he pushed through his Perry Hall neighborhood. In addition to being a Mount St. Mary’s, Orioles, Ravens and Baltimore Colts fan, he enjoyed golfing at the Worthington Valley Golf Club and attending Hereford High School reunions.
He was an active communicant of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Fullerton for 42 years and served as an usher. Before the pandemic, he called his church and offered to “volunteer helping grocery shop for those who couldn’t shop for themselves,” his daughter said.
Because Mr. Bailey was experiencing heavy breathing on Nov. 18, his doctor sent him to the emergency room at Good Samaritan, and later to intensive care.
“His oxygen saturation was low and tested positive for COVID that evening,” Ms. Celozzi said. “He heard from former students and we read emails and cards to him over the phone. He talked about coming home. He was just a joyful and optimistic person.”
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