Myrtle Leary Thompson Koger, the daughter of the late Annie Mitchell Leary was born May 12, 1926 in Somerset, Pa. She departed this life Sept. 21, 2012 after a lengthy illness. At an early age, Myrtle and her younger sister Ramona became a part of Frannie and George William Thompson’s family. Among the youngest of the seven Thompson children, Myrtle loved the great outdoors, and spent hours exploring her beloved Pennsylvania countryside.
She received her formal education in the schools of Somerset County, and at the age of 14 years came to Baltimore, where she graduated from Douglass High School (1943) and the Coppin State Teachers’ College (1947).
Myrtle met and married John Franklin Koger Jr. in 1948; to this union were born three lovely daughters: Ann, Virlyn Patricia, and Carol.
Throughout her life Myrtle Koger was known as a gentle, compassionate, person of conviction; one who often put the needs of others ahead of her own. It is no wonder then that she chose teaching as both her vocation and avocation. Myrtle served as an educator for more than 40 years, in which time she sought to guide her students through an educational process that included both the theoretical
and the practical realities of life. Looking at current trends in education, it is evident that Myrtle was ahead of her time, a real renaissance woman. Her creative use of cutting edge instructional strategies set her classroom apart from many of her peers. However, Myrtle Koger’s ability to inspire and motivate young people was not limited to the classroom. Her love for racquet sports provided her
with the opportunity to introduce countless numbers of youth to the world of recreational and competitive tennis.
The tennis courts at Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore provided the backdrop for Myrtle’s formal training under the tutelage of tennis legend, William “Babe” Jones. As a founding member of the Netmen Coed Tennis Club and the Baltimore Tennis Club, Myrtle graced the courts with her athletic ability winning myriad trophies while competing on the historical American Tennis Association circuit. She became an integral part of the proliferation of tennis activities and events that followed Baltimore’s civil rights protest and subsequent integration of the tennis courts and other facets of the game. Myrtle was not only a tennis player; she was a dedicated youth instructor, a tournament administrator, chaperone for youth, and an overall supporter of tennis programming and fundraising efforts.
Among the regular guests at her home and/or her dinner table were the talented juniors who traveled with the legendary Dr. R. Walter “Doc” Johnson including Arthur Ashe (the first African-American male to win the Wimbledon Championship),
Leslie Allen (sports entrepreneur), and John Lucas (who later became a star player for the Houston Rockets basketball team). Myrtle did not selfishly hold on to this love of the sport, but she passed it on to her three daughters and hundreds of others.
Upon moving to Baltimore, Myrtle attended Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church before being baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness. She remained faithful to this calling until her passing. Myrtle loved the fellowship of the brethren; and she regularly attended meetings until her health prevented her from doing so. An avid student of the word, Myrtle often opened her home for both adult and youth Bible study. As much as Myrtle Koger loved tennis, it was not her true love. Her real passion could be found in the encouraging words of her favorite songbook. It was through the experiences of life that Myrtle had become a woman of faith, and developed a deep relationship with her creator.
Myrtle Koger loved Johnny Cash and all things Country, a good game of Scrabble, Pinochle, Gin Rummy, reading, and a challenging crossword puzzle. She enjoyed cooking one dish meals (you name it) goulash, spaghetti, cabbage and potatoes. When Myrtle started rattling the pots you knew that you were in for a treat, especially if she was baking her homemade apple pie. To say that Myrtle
Koger loved her family would be a gross understatement. She had a way of making each one of them feel special. Many discussions have ensued on the topic of who did Grandma Myrtle love more. If she could respond today, she would probably say: “don’t worry my heart is big enough to hold each of you.” Mother, Grandmother, Great-grandmother, Aunt, Family Member and Friend.
Myrtle Koger will be deeply missed by all who were blessed to have known her.
She leaves to cherish her memory: three daughters; Ann Koger,Virlyn Patricia Koger, and Carol House; five grandchildren; twelve great grandchildren; nephews; John J. Oliver Jr., Lemie Pickett, William Prestwidge, John Pickett; nieces; Barbara Prestwidge Bellinger, Beverly Carter (John), Jacqueline Fields, Delores Thompson Chapman, Lucille Barrett (George), and a host of other relatives and friends.
The family hour begins at noon, Sept. 29, at Kingdom Hall of Jehovah Witnesses, 3404 Bateman Ave., with the memorial service following at 1 p.m.