Ledonia A. Kimball, a retired Baltimore public schools educator and active member of Trinity Presbyterian Church, where she was a lay minister, died Jan. 26 of breast cancer at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. The Northwest Baltimore resident was 77.
“Ledonia was simply a phenomenal woman. She was steadfast, a team player, and was the kind of person who always got the job done. She was a warrior,” said Laura Phillips Byrd of Madison Park, a Morgan State University classmate.
“You knew you could always count on her. She was kind but meant business and took no foolishness,” Mrs. Byrd said. “She said what she meant and meant what she said. She was straightforward and told it like it was.”
The former Ledonia Ann Ward, daughter of George Ward Sr., a handyman, and his wife, Maybelle Ward, a homemaker, was born and raised in Waterbury, Connecticut, where she graduated in 1960 from Crosby High School.
After high school, Mrs. Kimball enrolled at Morgan State University, from which she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1964 in physical education, and a master’s degree, also from Morgan, in 1976.
While at Morgan, she was a cheerleader and joined Gamma Sigma Sigma service sorority, and years later, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s Baltimore Alumnae Chapter. As a student, she was active in the peaceful demonstrations that integrated the Northwood Shopping Center.
After leaving college, Mrs. Kimball went to work in a warehouse.
"Ledonia had an amazing work ethic. She was the first person of color to work for Scovill’s in the front office area, and they told her that her performance would determine if they let any other ‘coloreds’ work in the front office,” her daughter, Latrese Kimball Brown, wrote in a biographical profile of her mother. “Naturally, the door was opened for others.”
In the late 1960s, Mrs. Kimball began her more than 30-year career with city public schools as a physical education instructor at Garrison Junior High School. She later joined the faculty of Booker T. Washington Middle School.
In 1993, she moved to school headquarters, where she worked in curriculum and instruction, and in the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools until her retirement in 2009. In addition to her regular career, she worked part time at a Giant grocery store and the old Maryland National Bank.
“She was devoted to Baltimore City Public Schools,” said a niece, Tracei Johnson of Pikesville. “She was also devoted to her church and did a lot of community work.”
Mrs. Kimball joined Trinity Presbyterian Church in 1974 and through the years served on its deacon board and the session, sang with the senior chancel and gospel choirs, and for a time, directed the men’s chorus. She headed the Vacation Bible School.
An accomplished pianist and organist, she filled in when a substitute musician was needed and often played during worship and special services. She was a recipient of the Presbyterian Women’s Award.
In 2009, she was a member of the first class of commissioned lay pastors for the Presbytery of Baltimore. “Upon completion of the course, she expanded her ministry and frequently brought the word to Presbyterian Churches throughout Maryland,” her daughter wrote. “She regularly provided Communion to the sick and shut in members of Trinity and made sure to keep them updated with what was happening at church.”
In addition to her work at Trinity, Mrs. Kimball served on various committees within the Presbytery of Baltimore.
“She was one of the most devoted members of Trinity during my 17 years there,” said the Rev. Ronnie Hankins, pastor of the church from 2003 to 2019.
“She an advocate for the underdog both at church and in city schools. She was a very advocate-oriented person,” said Mr. Hankins, who is now pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Odessa, Texas. “She was a very committed person, and while we didn’t always agree on matters, I could always count on Ledonia showing up at the table to be part of the conversation.”
He described her as being “very kind and funny and we enjoyed working together.”
“We were both commissioned as lay pastors at Trinity,” said LaJerne T. Cornish, senior vice president for academic affairs at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. “She was a woman of faith and family who was very committed and giving person. She’d say, ‘Do doing the right thing for the right reason, even if no one is watching.' ”
Mrs. Kimball could at times be impatient with those around her. “She could get very frustrated with you if you didn’t do what you said you were going to do. Just saying,” Dr. Cornish said. “She did not bite her tongue.”
In addition to her church work, she taught line dancing at the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s Delta Center and sang with the Delta Chorale and the Association of Baltimore City Public Schools Retirees. She was also an inveterate supporter of Baltimore-area choirs.
She was an active member of the Morgan State College Alumni Association and played a leading role in planning activities for her class reunion and in organizing donations to the Morgan Foundation from the Class of 1964.
“She was so involved in helping us celebrate our 50th from Morgan and no one knew she had breast cancer at the time," Mrs. Byrd said. "She headed our fundraising effort for our class gift, and she gave her own money to help us reach our goal.”
Mrs. Kimball embraced her daughter’s friends, nurturing and caring for them, checking in on them and supporting their activities.
“She always welcomed my friends to spend the night, but they had to know that if church or Bible school was the next day, they had to be prepared to go, and no, she didn’t care what they wore,” her daughter wrote.
Mrs. Kimball enjoyed celebrating everything from birthdays and good grades to promotions, and was always ready to go out and celebrate at a restaurant.
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In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Kimball is survived by a brother, Archbishop George Ward of North Las Vegas, Nevada; a sister, Joy Donaldson of Hamden, Connecticut; two granddaughters; six nephews; and 12 nieces.