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John Howard Huffman

HuffmanJohn Howard Huffman, 74, on October 29, 2015, in Springfield, Mo., peacefully set free from a long struggle with Alzheimer’s. John was born on January 3, 1941, in Oskaloosa, Iowa, to Ardyth L. Praay and Herbert S. Huffman, a Quaker minister whose ministry and work with American Friends Service Committee and Friends United Meeting took the family to Indianapolis, Ind., and then to Lexington, Mass., where John graduated from Lexington High School in 1959.

After earning a degree in French in 1963 from Guilford College, where he met his future wife, Karolyn S. Kelsey, he taught French in middle and high school, later pursuing a master’s in French at Miami University of Ohio and doing additional graduate study in France. John and Karolyn, both members of Wilmington (Ohio) Meeting, married in 1963 in Wilmington. While Karolyn was finishing her studies at Wilmington College, John taught French at nearby Xenia High School. (Later, genealogical research found that they were distant cousins, both descended from a Nantucket Quaker whaling family: the Macys.)

Beginning in 1967, John taught English for two years at Teachers College in Kaimosi, Kenya; for two years at Sandy Spring Friends School in Maryland; and for six years at Baltimore Friends School. He and his family attended Gunpowder Meeting in Sparks, Md., at a time when the meeting’s numbers had dwindled. In the 1970s they transferred their memberships there, working with other Friends to keep the meeting alive and having regular holiday parties in addition to meetings for worship. John would tell scary stories during the meeting’s annual Halloween party. He was clerk of Gunpowder Meeting for five years and created the wooden sign outside the meeting burial ground, where his ashes will be scattered. A staunch advocate for peace and equal rights, he often spoke out for social justice in his classes and in the community. In 1977 he began teaching in the Baltimore City Public Schools, where he remained until his retirement. He served for two summers at Glaydin Quaker Camp in Virginia beginning in 1978 and for another summer when operations were moved to Opequon Quaker Camp.

An exchange teacher in Kawasaki, Japan, for a year, he also traveled to France, Greece, Africa, England, and around the United States. He took many spring break trips to Quebec City with students and traveled with Scouts to Japan and to a worldwide Scout Jamboree. His home was filled with African artifacts, and he enjoyed telling stories from his Kenya experience, using enthusiastic gestures, accents, and sound effects. He produced sketches over the years for his college newspaper, his classrooms, and family and friends, and for many years he created beautiful greeting cards for the Broadmead lifetime care facility where Karolyn worked. He played the piano and harmonica, and classical music fed his soul. For almost 25 years, he led the December Carol Sings at Stony Run Meeting in Baltimore.

John was preceded in death by his parents, Herbert Huffman and Ardyth Huffman, and by his wife of 49 years, Karolyn Kelsey Huffman, who died in 2012. He is survived by his children, Laura Louise Reynolds and Stephen Mark Huffman; five grandchildren; and a sister, Mary Probasco. Donations can be made in John’s memory to American Friends Service Committee, 1501 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102 or through afsc​.org. Please include a note specifying “The John Huffman Memorial Fund.”

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