Joel R. Bailey, a longtime Baltimore County public school English teacher who also coached basketball, died Friday of complications from a stroke at Gilchrist Hospice Care. He was 77.
"The first thing, Joel really liked his students. ... He enjoyed interacting with them. He was a gentleman," said William L. McIntyre, who grew up with and attended elementary, middle and high schools with Mr. Bailey.
"He was the same way in basketball. He was a good teaching coach. He communicated well with his students and he respected them, and they respected him," said Mr. McIntyre, a retired Eastern Technical High School social studies teacher.
After graduating in 1954 from Dundalk High School, he earned a bachelor's degree in English in 1958 from what is now McDaniel College.
Mr. Bailey was commissioned in 1958 and served as an Army Ranger until being discharged in 1960. He served as a reservist with the 29th Division from 1960 to 1968, when he was discharged with the rank of lieutenant.
He briefly worked at Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point plant before beginning his teaching career in 1961 at Dundalk High School.
"I think because we had grown up in the blue-collar Dundalk of the 1940s and 1950s, Joel always liked teaching blue-collar students because of their work ethic. He appreciated them," said Mr. McIntyre, who retired in 1992 and lives in Havre de Grace.
In addition to teaching English, Mr. Bailey derived great pleasure from teaching writing, said Mr. McIntyre.
"I always thought Joel would write the Great American Novel one day. When we were growing up and we were doing something, he'd say, 'I'm collecting material for my novel,' " recalled Mr. McIntyre.
After teaching at Dundalk High School, where he began his career, he joined the faculty of Eastern Vocational Technical High School — now Eastern Technical High School — in 1975.
During his teaching years at Dundalk and Eastern Technical, he served as the yearbook adviser.
Mr. Bailey, who retired in 1996, also coached basketball at Dundalk, Eastern Technical and the Dundalk campus of the Community College of Baltimore County.
"He was a wonderful man and a great influence on me. He was the kindest and most generous man with his time," said Brian Boston, who is the executive chef and a partner at the Milton Inn in Sparks. "Every student who had Mr. Bailey would say the same."
He credited Mr. Bailey with helping him get his start in the restaurant business.
"He helped me get a job at Peerce's Plantation when I was in high school. I was studying food service at Eastern Vo-Tech and he took a group of us to Peerce's, and that's how I got a job," said Mr. Boston.
"We kept in contact after high school, and he was just a wonderful, wonderful man who went well beyond the call of duty," he said. "He was an exemplary teacher."
In addition to teaching in county public schools, Mr. Bailey was also an adjunct professor of English at Harford Community College for many years.
When Jeyan Jebaraj emigrated from India more than a decade ago, Mr. Bailey was his teacher at Harford Community College.
"He was my very first professor when I came from India. As a teacher, he was very disciplined and very involved with each and every student. He knew their needs. If you worked hard, he took notice of that," said Mr. Jebaraj, a cartographer who lives in Woodlawn.
"And when you were in his classroom, you couldn't just sit around. You had to work," said Mr. Jebaraj. "Without him, I would not be speaking English as well as I do. He was a very patient teacher and introduced me to the many cultural things found here."
The longtime Baldwin resident enjoyed preparing gourmet French dinners and collecting vintage automobiles.
"He had a 1969 Mustang, a 1971 Mercury Cougar and a 1973 Falcon," said his wife of 44 years, the former Gail Connolly, a retired Montgomery County public school librarian.
"We had many things in common, and we enjoyed restoring a 1967 Mustang. He taught me golf and we golfed together," said Mr. Jebaraj. "It was like hanging out with your grandfather. We had wonderful times together, which I wouldn't trade for anything."
A celebration of Mr. Bailey's life will be held at noon Saturday at the Milton Inn, 14833 York Road, Sparks.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Bailey is survived by a son, Scott Bailey of Cape St. Claire; two daughters, Kristin Gandhi of Washington and Brooke Fine of Brookline, Mass.; a sister, Mary Helen Stokely of Melbourne Beach, Fla.; and four grandchildren.