Marion Garrett, principal

Marion Marie Ames Garrett, a retired Baltimore City Public Schools principal and lead soprano in her church choir, died Jan. 15 at Keswick Multi-Care Center of complications from several ailments, including diabetes and repeated strokes.

She was 82.

"She was a kind, thoughtful, sensitive and giving person," said Mrs. Garrett's daughter, Pamela Carter of the Woodmere community in Northwest Baltimore. "She was a helping hand to everybody."

Mrs. Garrett, one of six children, was born in Baltimore to William F. Ames and Annie L. Ames. She graduated from Frederick Douglass High School and Coppin State Teachers College, now Coppin State University. She also received a master's degree from Morgan State College, which later became Morgan State University.

She began teaching in 1961 and eventually became a senior teacher and then an assistant principal before serving as principal of two schools, first Holabird Academy and then Charles Carroll Barrister Elementary.

It wasn't a surprise to her family when Mrs. Garrett shifted from the classroom to administration, said Mrs. Carter. Her mother had been working toward becoming a school administrator and desired to improve the lives of children by improving their schools, Mrs. Carter said.

Longtime friend and colleague Helen Beverly — who met Mrs. Garrett while they were students at Coppin State in the late-1950s and later went to Morgan State and taught at Lakewood Elementary with her — said Mrs. Garrett enjoyed being an administrator and was serious when dealing with teachers because she was earnest about the students' environment, she said.

"She was wonderful with children who really had problems," Mrs. Beverly said. "They loved her."

After working as a principal for 11 years, Mrs. Garrett retired only to be hired by Mrs. Beverly, who was principal at Belmont Elementary, to run the school's "TLC Lab." Mrs. Garrett oversaw the program for students who had behavior problems and needed to be temporarily removed from their normal classrooms.

"We found out after awhile that some of our repeat offenders preferred to be with Mrs. Garrett," Mrs. Beverly said. "We ended up having to limit the number of days per months students could spend with her."

She married Kenneth Garrett on Sept. 18, 1947.

"They were two peas in a pod," said family friend Eugene Clark. "If you saw one, you saw the other."

Mr. Garrett died in the summer of 2010. He had continued to live in their Towanda home until his death, though Mrs. Garrett moved to Keswick Multi-Care Center about five years ago, her daughter said. When she first arrived at the nursing facility, Mrs. Carter said, her mother's body was near failure and she was pulled back from the brink with medical care.

For a time, Mrs. Garrett served as secretary for the Towanda Community Improvement Association. The Garrett family moved to the Towanda neighborhood of Northwest Baltimore in the mid-1960s.

"She was the type of person who knew everybody on the block," said Mr. Clark.

Mrs. Garrett had been a member of New Shiloh Baptist Church since her early 20s. She served as a Sunday school teacher before going on to help found the Saturday church school. She served as secretary and teacher for the parish's Baptist Training Union Ministry and was New Shiloh's delegate for many years at the national Family Life Conference.

Over the years she was the leader of three singing groups at the church, including two choirs and the Jubilee Singers. She was also active with the Morgan State University Choir.

"She always had such a beautiful, wide smile about her; she could light up a room," said Mr. Clark, a fellow New Shiloh congregant. "Since she anchored, was first chair for, the sopranos, she was always very visible to the congregation and everyone could see her smiling."

Mrs. Garrett was a proud shopaholic and meticulous dresser, her family and friends said, and also enjoyed reading, cooking, sewing and listening to jazz and opera. She was also a member of the Alpha Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and served as the group's social committee chair, implementing outreach to pregnant teens.

A viewing and sorority ceremony will be held Monday at Estep Funeral Services, 1300 Eutaw Place in Baltimore, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. A service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday at New Shiloh Baptist Church, 2100 N. Monroe St. in Baltimore.

In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Garrett is survived by a sister, Delores Handy of Pikesville; two grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.