As Charles H. Flowers High School faculty and members of the Maryland Army National Guard took turns eulogizing business teacher and Master Sgt. Timmie Telsee, who died Nov. 3 from a heart attack, tears streamed down the faces of 11th-graders Cameron Miles and Charleene Folks.
“We were devastated,” said Cameron, 16, of Mitchellville, of their reaction to his death.
“I didn’t believe it,” said Charleene, 16, of Mitchellville. “I didn’t want to believe it.”
The juniors were both students in Telsee’s advanced accounting class at the Springdale high school.
Flowers High held a memorial service Nov. 27 for Telsee, 51, of Clinton, who died after a two-mile run while on duty teaching officer candidates with the Baltimore-based Maryland Army National Guard’s 70th Regiment Regional Training Institute. Telsee had been an instructor with the regiment, training and mentoring new officers, since 1996, and had spent 32 years combined in the Maryland Army National Guard and the U.S. Marine Corps.
Business department chairwoman Gladys Montgomery said Telsee, who taught at the school since its opening in 2000, had a steely demeanor that belied his warmth and kindness.
“He was a perfectionist. The military part of him definitely showed in the classroom,” Montgomery said. “His personality was soft and sleek, and then very tough when he had to be.”
At the memorial service, members of the Maryland Army National Guard awarded Telsee’s wife and three adult children with the State of Maryland Distinguished Service Cross, awarded for “years of meritorious service,” and the District of Columbia Army National Guard Commendation Medal for his 16 years of service as an instructor of new officers in field exercises.
Maryland Army National Guard Brigadier Gen. Peter C. Hinz, commander of Telsee’s regiment, said Telsee was at his toughest when training new officers, but his warmth was always just behind that facade.
“He always had this sparkle in his eye, this joy of life,” Hinz said. “...He had this dichotomy of what he had to do [during training], but after officers graduated, he’d be the first one to give you a big hug.”
Telsee’s wife, Carlita Telsee, 48, said she was surprised at the outpouring of support she has received.
“He was a very quiet and humble person,” she said. “He never really talked about all that he did for others.”
Prior to teaching at Flowers High School in 2000, Telsee also taught business classes at Northern High School in Baltimore.
Telsee said her husband had always aspired to be a teacher, as evidenced by his civilian and military careers.
“He just loved being around and teaching kids,” she said. “They made him smile more than anything.”
Telsee, who grew up in Louisiana before moving to Maryland, is also survived by his three children, Ruby Telsee, 20, Vincent Rouse, 29, and Anthony Adams, 29.
Flowers Principal Gorman Brown called Telsee a “consummate professional” and said students are striving to continue Telsee’s legacy, with some looking to start a scholarship fund in his honor. Brown said he hopes to rename Flowers’ business wing in Telsee’s honor.
“Timmie enriched the lives of each educator, because he believed the kids were worth it,” Brown said. “He is as much a part of Flowers High School as the bricks and mortar that make its foundation.”