Very few professions have as much of a role in influencing a community as that of an educator. In Baltimore City, one of those notable influencers was Vera Bell Fry, who helped shaped the lives of thousands of young boys and girls in the public school system for almost a half-century. Now, with her death on Dec. 22 at the age of 95, many are remembering Fry as a devoted and model educator who not only shaped the minds of her students but the generations of young teachers she trained.
“She absolutely loved the role and responsibilities of being a teacher. She felt it was her calling,” said her daughter, Erica Fry Cryor, in a statement. “She was known to customize learning materials for her own grandchildren and preserved them for her great-grandchildren as well. She maintained an aura of preciseness and dignity because she felt those attributes were as important to learning as were daily lesson plans.”
Her son-in-law Michael Cryor, a former chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party, well-known local television personality and president of One Baltimore, added: “We have friends who were students of hers. They remember her very fondly, some even attribute their appreciation for learning and early skill development to the frequent field trips and hands-on experiences she considered essential to the learning process. She had a real devotion to the children of the City, especially those from challenged circumstances.”
Vera Bell Fry was born as one of three daughters to Dr. James Bell, a family physician and internist, and Mussette Bell, a school teacher.
Family members said Fry and her sisters enjoyed accompanying their father on his late-night emergency calls.
“It was exciting and adventurous for them as children, but that early exposure to service and compassion became a family trademark, expressed for nearly half a century in her classrooms,” said Erica Cryor.
Fry and her late sisters Carolyn Bell Finney and Jimmy Bell Clay also, undoubtedly, were influenced by their mother, following her into the profession of teaching.
Fry graduated from Coppin Teachers College in 1941 at age 19 and, according to her family, her starting salary was $100 per month. She educated students at schools such as Lexington Terrace Elementary School in West Baltimore before retiring in 1988 after 47 years in the classroom.
According to her family, between teaching, Fry enjoyed spending time with her growing family, horseback riding and reading.
Fry died a few days before Christmas at University of Maryland Medical Center from an unnamed cause. Her remains have been cremated and an interment will occur at a later date.