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Former Principal at Germantown Elementary Dies at 83

The former longtime principal at Germantown Elementary School, David George Vader, died at the age of 83, suddenly while vacationing in Sanibel Island, Fla. on February 13, according to his family.

David Vader served as Principal of Germantown Elementary School for 21 years, from 1971 until his retirement in 1992. He began working for Montgomery County Public Schools in 1961 as a special needs teacher at Sandy Spring School. He later became Principal at Longview School when it was located in Washington Grove. He also taught at Monocacy Elementary School in Dickerson for a short time.

Born December 30, 1936, in Hartford, Conn, Vader was the only son of Theodore and Augusta Yanke Vader. As a young boy, he enjoyed being outdoors all day with neighborhood friends, according to his family. He often played ice hockey on a local pond and was not fond of sitting still inside school all day and did not like his fourth-grade teacher.

“His empathy for children and his deep desire that all children have access to a good education led him to become a teacher for teens with special needs,” said his daughter Rev. Stephanie Vader. “Pioneering a curriculum without many examples, he did what he felt best served his students and took them bowling, roller skating, and swimming, transporting them in the back of his old pick-up truck with the cab on the back. His love for the outdoors drove him to advocate with the Montgomery County schools administration to get permission to take his students for a week of outdoor education. He continued to be a strong advocate for outdoor education in public schools. David eventually became an elementary school principal but never lost his love for being outdoors with the children. He kept his sneakers in his office, and often went out for recess to be the designated softball pitcher and to make sure that all the children had a chance to play in the game.”

“Handball was a thread through his life,” said his daughter. “He was taught the game as a boy by his father at the YMCA. He taught his son to play and the many handball games they played together made his heart sing. He was proud to win the Maryland State Doubles Handball Tournament twice for his age bracket.” He played handball until his sixties when he had to quit because of knee pain, but he continued to be active and spend time outdoors.

Vader met his life partner Nancy Smith at Syracuse University. Nancy took charge and asked David to go to a dance with her and thus began 60 years of dancing and taking long walks together, according to his family.

The couple would have four children, daughters Stephanie, Sandra and Kirsten, and son David. Vader fully incarnated the role of a father and grandfather who was happiest when surrounded by family members, said his daughter.