Community Celebrates Retired Educator’s 102nd Birthday

Community Celebrates Retired Educator’s 102nd Birthday
Josephine Anderson speaks with Commissioners Ted Elder and Diana Purnell on her 102nd birthday. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN – The community gathered last week to honor a well-known former educator on her 102nd birthday.

A standing-room only crowd surprised Josephine Anderson as she arrived at the Berlin library last Thursday. Dozens of community members wanted to share well-wishes and fond memories with Anderson on her 102nd birthday.

“Because of the pandemic she really wasn’t able to celebrate her 100th birthday,” said relative Cassandra Brown, who organized the festivities. “We wanted to really brighten her day a little bit.”

Anderson, who now lives with her daughter in Bowie, was born March 10, 1920 in Whaleyville. As a child, she attended a one-room school and Flower Street School before graduating from Salisbury High School. After graduating high school with honors, Anderson completed a three-year education at Maryland Normal and Industrial School at Bowie in 1939 and later returned to earn a bachelor of science in education in 1941 as a member of the college’s first four-year graduation class.

“When Josephine went to college she got room, board, tuition and laundry for $165 a year,” a member of the local alumni chapter at Bowie State University said at Thursday’s celebration. “Can you believe that?”

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In 1946, Anderson returned to Worcester County where she taught at Mount Wesley in Snow Hill and Germantown School in Berlin. From there, she went to Flower Street School, where she taught until Worcester County schools were integrated in 1970. She spent the final 13 years of her career as a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Berlin Middle School. Superintendent of Schools Lou Taylor said he was a fifth-grader when he first met Anderson and still recalls the look she’d give students in the hall.

Taylor started his own teaching career at Berlin Middle the same year Anderson retired.

“She was walking out the door as this young 22-year-old was walking in the door,” he said. “It’s great to be in this position now to be able to celebrate her.”

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Worcester County Public Schools Superintendent Lou Taylor presents Anderson with a commendation.

Anderson is now the oldest living retired Worcester County Public Schools teacher and the last surviving principal of Germantown School.

Anderson’s daughter, Anita Hall, said she’d told her mother they were going to lunch with her cousin, 102-year-old Mary Gladys Jones, who is also a retired educator who started her career in Worcester County.

“She’s very surprised,” Hall said.

Jones and Anderson were seated together at the front of the room as friends and family recited poetry, sang and played music last Thursday. Others simply shared fond memories with Anderson.

“She taught me in fifth and sixth grade. She was a good teacher and everybody loved her,” said Harry Henry, a former Germantown School student. “If you didn’t show up she’d come look for you.”

Carol Rose, who presented citations from the state on behalf of Sen. Mary Beth Carozza, recalled Anderson teaching her son at Berlin Middle. Gee Williams, who served as Berlin’s mayor from 2008 to 2020, also praised the impact Anderson had in Worcester County.

“Now she serves as an inspiration to all of us,” he said,

Worcester County Commissioners Ted Elder and Diana Purnell also presented Anderson with a commendation.

“I’ve met so many of your students…,” Purnell said. “You educated them, you put something in them, you made them strong. That’s what education means.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.