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Leona Carpenter, retired Baltimore City school guidance counselor who taught at her church, dies

Leona Carpenter, retired Baltimore City school guidance counselor who taught at her church, dies
Leona Williams Carpenter was named 1985 woman of the year by Union Baptist Church, which has named the women's Sunday school class after her. (Courtesy photo)

Leona Williams Carpenter, a retired Baltimore City Public Schools teacher and guidance counselor who was named woman of the year by her church, died of dementia complications June 3 at Harmony House in Columbia. The former Ashburton resident was 98.

Born in Remington, Va., she was the daughter of Harry Williams, a farmer, and his wife, Beatrice, a homemaker. She attended elementary schools in Fauquier County.

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Her daughter, Lynn Carpenter Coleman of Clarksville, said her mother, as a 9-year-old, visited an aunt and uncle who lived in Baltimore near Greenmount Avenue on East 23rd Street.

“She loved being with them — Mattie and Cyrus Gwathney — so much, she returned to live with them and continued her education,” the daughter said.

Mrs. Carpenter was a Dunbar High School graduate and in 1945 received her bachelor’s degree in education at Morgan State University. She pledged the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and remained active in the group. She earned a master’s degree in guidance-student personnel administration from Teachers College, Columbia University in 1949.

She met her future husband, Harry Albert Carpenter Jr., at Union Baptist Church, where they were members.

She joined Baltimore Public Schools and went on to become a guidance counselor. She was on the Dunbar faculty and retired from Lemmel Junior High School.

Mrs. Carpenter remained active in Alpha Kappa Alpha events and her church. She was the past president of The DuBois Circle, an African American women’s organization founded in 1906. Under her tenure, the organization was recognized at Carnegie Hall during a W.E.B. DuBois celebration.

“Leona always had a smile. She had clarity about what she believed, and she was a good mentor for a number of people,” said Maxine Wood, a friend and Ashburton neighbor. “I gave deference to her wisdom and her style. She was a very dependable person.”

Dr. Wood also said: “She had a wonderful sense of humor. She would tell a story and everybody would be laughing — and she sat there with a straight face. She had high principles and she articulated them well, in a friendly way.

“She believed in how to do things and how to say them,” said Dr. Wood, a retired Johns Hopkins University School of Education faculty member. “She was very much a counselor, and that wasn’t just limited to her professional life. People learned from her. She was an excellent role model. She did not hesitate to tell you what you needed to do, but always that smile. You never got angry.”

Larry Gibson, a University of Maryland School of Law faculty member and biographer of Thurgood Marshall, recalled Mrs. Carpenter from his days on the Baltimore City School Board. “She was bright, classy and elegant,” Mr. Gibson said.

Mrs. Carpenter was named Union Baptist Church’s 1985 woman of the year. She founded the congregation’s Cultural Arts Committee, which offers free public concerts. She taught the women’s Sunday school class for many years; the Sunday school has since named the class after her.

She also loved participating in the Mondawmin Child Study Group, a mothers club; the Scorekeepers, a pinochle club; and Jack and Jill, a membership organization of mothers.

“Leona loved telling jokes and would often keep family and friends entertained with her humor,” her daughter said.

Her husband of 50 years, a retired city schools administrator and a founding member of BUILD - Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, died in 2003. Her son, Harry Albert Carpenter III, died in 2016.

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Services will be held at 11 a.m. June 29 at Union Baptist Church, 1201 Druid Hill Ave.

Survivors in addition to her daughter include nieces and nephews.

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