Nova A. Scott, a retired Baltimore public schools educator who became the first African-American woman to serve on the Howard County Commission on Aging, died Wednesday of complications from an infection at Howard County General Hospital.
She was 86.
"Nova was always very low-key. She never talked about what she was doing, she just did it, and she did lots of good during her life," said Betty S. Brown, a retired Baltimore public schools educator and a friend for more than 50 years.
The daughter of a master carpenter and a homemaker, Nova Marie Teresa Anderson was born the fourth of nine children and was raised in Jackson, Miss., where she graduated in 1944 from the Lanier School.
Mrs. Scott enrolled at Tougaloo College, a historically black institution in Jackson, where she earned a bachelor's degree in 1948 in chemistry.
"She was influenced by her parents, who had been active in civil rights," said a grandchild, Angela J. Scott, a lawyer who lives in Windsor Hills.
Thelma Cooley Robinson was a college classmate and a fellow Mississippian.
"Nova was a very lovely person and very dedicated to civil rights. She did whatever she could to further the cause," said Ms. Robinson, a retired federal government mathematician who lives in Cheverly.
"She participated in all the programs at college. She talked to people and passed out literature," said Ms. Robinson. "She knew the Deep South very well and was very outspoken. She was always at the forefront and pushed the cause."
Mrs. Scott later earned a second bachelor's degree from what is now Coppin State University, and did additional studies at Morgan State University, the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland.
In 1949, she married Wayman Anthony Scott Jr., a Delaware-born educator, and moved to Dover, Del. In 1953, the couple moved to Catonsville and Mrs. Scott began teaching in Howard County public schools.
Mrs. Scott began teaching in 1957 in Baltimore public schools, where she was a special-education and home-applied economics teacher at the elementary, junior high and senior high levels.
She had been on the faculty of Gwynns Falls Park Junior High School for many years and retired in 1985.
"Nova valued education tremendously and constantly instilled its importance in her son and grandchildren," said Ms. Scott.
"I first met Nova when I was a new teacher at Gwynns Falls Park," recalled Ms. Brown. "She was wonderful, giving and caring, and showed me the ropes. She'd say, 'You're doing a good job,' and was always giving good advice."
She added that Mrs. Scott was a "wonderful role model."
"You know, the older teachers kind of looked down on the young ones, but not Nova, and we remained close friends all these years," said Ms. Brown. "She was such a big help to me when I was a young teacher. She was my biggest confidante."
Ms. Brown said her friend occasionally talked about growing up in Mississippi.
"She talked about her parents and how it was difficult for her father, who was a builder, at times. And how difficult it was for blacks who couldn't attend state universities," she said.
In 1961, Mrs. Scott and her husband moved to the Triadelphia Road area of Ellicott City, and both immersed themselves in community and charitable work.
A 2000 profile of the couple in the Afro-American newspaper said they had been "making significant contributions to the life style of Howard County for 40 years," adding that they had been "quietly and significantly contributing to the fabric" of the county.
In 1969, Omar J. Jones, then-Howard County executive, appointed Mrs. Scott as a commissioner to the Howard County Commission on Aging, which had been established that year.
During her 12 years on the commission, from which she stepped down in 1981, Mrs. Scott was instrumental in the planning of Howard County's Florence Bain Senior Center, which opened in 1983 and was named for the county's first chairwoman of the Commission on Aging.
When the senior center, whose name was later changed to the Bain Center, reached its 25th anniversary, Mrs. Scott told The Baltimore Sun in an interview that she came in every other day to socialize and eat lunch.
"It just gives me the opportunity to chat with people. I'm kind of isolated, living in a rural area," she said. "I read lots of books and stuff, and walk around and chat with some of the people I know."
In addition to her work with the commission, Mrs. Scott was appointed to an eight-member advisory board to the Department of Human Services, whose mission was to allocate funds for human services and plan programs that would meet residents' needs.
A year later, Mrs. Scott joined the board of the Howard County Red Cross. She also had been a member of the advisory board of Howard Community College's nursing education program.
Both Mrs. Scott and her husband, who died in 2002, had served on the board of the African American Cultural Center in Howard County, and both were lifelong members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
She also had been an active member for 64 years of her college's alumni association and had been looking forward to attending her 65th class reunion.
Since 2007, Mrs. Scott had resided in Columbia.
Mrs. Scott, who was a world traveler, also enjoyed reading and gardening and was a gourmet cook. She liked entertaining family and friends and was known for her Southern gumbo and rockfish that she stuffed with crab meat, family members said.
Mrs. Scott was an active communicant of St. Paul Roman Catholic Church in Ellicott City and St. Louis Roman Catholic Church, 12500 Clarksville Pike, Clarksville, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at noon Tuesday.
In addition to her granddaughter, Mrs. Scott is survived by her son, Wayman Anthony Scott III of Columbia; two brothers, George Anderson of Brentwood, Calif., and Bernard Anderson of Jackson, Miss.; two sisters, Alfreda Anderson Scott of Los Angeles and Amy Anderson Black of Lansing, Mich.; two other grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.