Sherry Elberfeld, a longtime educator who taught at the McDonogh School and St. James Academy, and who loved animals, died of a heart attack June 18.
The Sparks resident was 78.
Born Sherry McGaw in 1941 to John McGaw and Juanita Gleason McGaw, Mrs. Elberfeld was raised in Shreveport, La. She was the older of two girls.
Mrs. Elberfeld’s father died when she was young, and her mother supported the family as a secretary, her husband, Dr. Harrold T. Elberfeld, said. As the older child, Mrs. Elberfeld was tasked with helping to take care of the family, he said.
Mrs. Elberfeld graduated from C.E. Byrd High School in Shreveport in 1959.
She earned a full scholarship to Peabody College, which later became the education school for Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. She graduated in 1963, earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in teaching in just four years, her husband said.
“She always wanted to be a teacher,” Dr. Elberfeld. “I think she was really impressed with the teachers she had growing up.”
Mrs. Elberfeld’s youngest son, Andrew Elberfeld, recalled a story that on her first day in a writing class, the professor asked all the students to write an essay. After the professor read Mrs. Elberfeld’s, he told her she did not need to take the class, her son said. She was to skip several entry-level classes and double up on credits to complete both degrees.
“At a young age, she had challenges put before her” but managed to succeed, her son said.
At school, she met her husband, who was a student a Vanderbilt. The couple married in 1963, and she moved to Baltimore the same year.
In Baltimore, Dr. Elberfeld attended the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine before he became an obstetrician.
During that time, 1963 to 1967, Mrs. Elberfeld taught at the McDonogh School in Owings Mills.
Mrs. Elberfeld left teaching to raise her two sons, John, who was born in 1967, and Andrew, in 1969.
When her sons entered school, Mrs. Elberfeld began to substitute-teach at St. James in Monkton. This led her to a full time job teaching second grade and later kindergarten. She taught at the school for 20 years.
While still teaching kindergarten, Mrs. Elberfeld started making Christmas crafts after school to sell at a fundraiser. She started the annual Christmas bazaar in the 1970s, which has since raised thousands of dollars for the school and continues to draw about 1,500 people each year.
Diane Fowler, who recently retired as the school’s director of admissions, taught kindergarten at the school with Mrs. Elberfeld and the two became close friends.
“She’s really one of the funniest people I ever met,” Mrs. Fowler said.
Mrs. Elberfeld would often joke with family members.
Andrew Elberfeld and his father recalled when Mrs. Elberfeld baked a batch of large, fluffy biscuits they couldn’t wait to bite into. But the son ended up with a mouth full of cotton because his mother had stuffed the biscuits with cotton balls as an April Fools’ Day joke.
Dr. Elberfeld said he merely ate around the cotton.
Mrs. Fowler recalled how teachers from St. James would take weekend trips together, including to Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Mrs. Fowler said Mrs. Elberfeld would often keep the women up by telling funny stories from her childhood.
“Her heart never left the South,” she said.
Mrs. Elberfeld was known for her passion for her pets and music.
“More than people she loved dogs. She was the most devoted person to her animals,” Mrs. Fowler said.
Mr. Elberfeld said the family grew accustomed to new dogs and cats — many strays — who found a home with the family.
“All the time she would say, ‘We have a new member of the family,’ ” her son recalled.
Mrs. Elberfeld’s final wish was to be cremated and have her ashes scattered on the family’s property where her pets were buried, her family said.
Mrs. Elberfeld was an avid piano player since taking lessons as a child. She stopped lessons, however, once she realized she could play music by ear, her husband said. She liked Dixieland jazz, her son said. Her favorite radio program was WAMU’s “Hot Jazz Saturday Night,” he said.
Mrs. Elberfeld was a member of the “Happy Pigs Collectors Club” whose members enjoy collecting pig items.
She was an accomplished cook, making Brunswick stew or strawberry pie for functions at St. James, Mrs. Fowler said.
Mrs. Elberfeld was also an avid reader since childhood, Mrs. Fowler said. She had an extensive vocabulary that could require one to look up words in the dictionary to keep up with the conversation, she said with a laugh.
“She was just one in a million. She had a very generous spirit,” Mrs. Fowler said.
In addition to her husband and sons, Mrs. Elberfeld is survived by her sister, Linda Overton, and her husband, Michael Overton, and two nieces, of Dallas.
A visitation will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday at Lemmon Funeral Home of Dulaney Valley at 10 W. Padonia Road in Timonium. Interment will be private.