Marie C. McMaster, 79, a kindergarten teacher at the Clymer School for 15 years and the mother of Army Gen. Herbert R. McMaster Jr., died Friday, May 10, at the LifeCare center in West Chester of complications from a blood infection.
As an educator, Mrs. McMaster had a positive influence on many Philadelphians, said her son, who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Often, when people at the airport or elsewhere saw my name, they would ask me if my mom taught kindergarten at Clymer School. Every year some of her students would take her to lunch, or have lunch at her house, to thank her," he said.
The former Marie Curcio, nicknamed Mimi, was born in Philadelphia and lived in Roxborough until moving to Sanatoga, and two years ago, to the Shannondell retirement community in Audubon.
Mrs. McMaster graduated from Cecilian Academy, and then from West Chester State Teachers College in 1956 with a bachelor's degree in education. She earned her master's degree in education from Antioch University while teaching full time and raising two young children.
Over a 37-year career, Mrs. McMaster taught fourth grade in the Whitemarsh Township School District from 1956 to 1962 and was the lead teacher for the School District of Philadelphia's Hattal-Taylor Get Set program in Roxborough from 1966 to 1972.
But the role for which she is most fondly remembered came from 1972 to 1987, when she was a kindergarten teacher at Clymer School, at 12th and Rush Streets in North Philadelphia.
"The parents there would fight to get their kids into her class," the general said. "She would sing, she played the piano.
"She'd say, 'What's the sound of A? Ah-ah-ah.' She had them all reading as a kindergartner. She was an amazingly charismatic and imaginative teacher."
Mrs. McMaster's deep concern for her students inspired many to success in kindergarten and beyond, her son said.
From 1987 to 1993, Mrs. McMaster administered an early childhood education program in the Philadelphia School District for disadvantaged youngsters. She trained teachers and encouraged parents to become involved in their children's education.
She found time for community service with the 21st Ward Community Council and the Dearnley Park Civic Association, and was active for seven years as the committeewoman for the 21st Ward, 29th Division.
In leisure time, Mrs. McMaster's main interests were centered on her children and grandchildren.
She was very active at their schools with fund-raisers and other support. She served on committees for Norwood-Fontbonne Academy and organized tailgates and social activities for the U.S. Military Academy rugby team from 1980 to 1984, when her son played the sport.
Gen. McMaster said his mother never wanted anything luxurious or indulgent. Instead, he said, "she directed all of her energy toward taking care of others."
After retiring, Mrs. McMaster remained passionate about education and was active in the Kappa Delta Epsilon honorary educational fraternity. The group engages in philanthropic activity, such as funding scholarships for disadvantaged children.
She married Herbert R. McMaster Sr. in 1957. They later divorced.
Surviving, in addition to her son and former husband, are a daughter, Letitia McMaster; two sisters; three granddaughters; and nieces and nephews.
A viewing will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday, May 13, at Fitzpatrick Funeral Home, 425 Lyceum Ave., Roxborough, followed by a 1 p.m. Funeral Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church, 815 E. Cathedral Rd., Andorra.
Interment will be in Westminster Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd.