Brenda J. Bodner, 49, teacher

BrendaJ. Bodner
BrendaJ. Bodner
Posted: January 17, 2009

Brenda J. Bodner, 49, a mother of four and a dedicated Philadelphia middle school teacher with an angelic voice, died Tuesday at her house in the Burlhome section of Northeast Philadelphia.

Ms. Bodner, who taught science at Grover Washington Jr. Middle School, stayed home Monday and died in her sleep the next day, said her father, Bruce Bodner. "She had told me she might have the stomach flu," he said.

The cause of death is pending until medical test results are complete, Jeff Moran, spokesman for the Philadelphia medical examiner, said yesterday.

The nearly 900 school students and staff at Grover Washington were stunned by the news of the popular and lighthearted teacher's death.

"I can still see her smiling face," said friend Candy Adams, a secretary. "We held an assembly for the whole school, provided counseling, and are planning a memorial service. I wish there were more teachers like her."

Ms. Bodner was witness to the culture of the 1960s, her father said. "I think her spirit and her love of music were influenced by the '60s. She loved to sing Beatles songs and folk music."

She graduated in 1977 from Frankford High School and married John Foley in 1981. They had three children before divorcing in 1988.

"My mother was selfless," said daughter Alison Foley, 22. "She sacrificed for her children and her students."

Ms. Bodner married Ed Pomeisl in 1990, and they had a son. The marriage ended in divorce in 1998.

A single mother with four children, she paid for college by waiting tables and sold music on compact discs in her shop at Drexel University. She enrolled at Temple University when she was 35 and earned a bachelor's in 2001 and a master's from LaSalle University in 2008, both in education. For fun, she sang and played guitar in coffee shops, and had a band for a while.

"She had a calming, beautiful voice," said son Sean Foley. "My mother loved summer. She put on a sundress and a hat with a big flower, and tended her garden of butterfly bushes, daffodils, and a patch of sunflowers. She was soft and warm."

Ms. Bodner began teaching science at Grover Washington in 2001. "She was committed to teach in the inner city where students don't have the resources, like those in the suburbs," said her father. "Her students loved her optimism and sense of humor."

In addition to her father, son and daughter, Ms. Bodner is survived by another son, Andrew Pomeisl; another daughter, Lauren Foley; mother Marlene Bodner; and two sisters. Her former husbands also survive.

Friends may visit at 12:30 p.m. today at John F. Fluehr & Sons, 3301 Cottman Ave. A memorial service will follow at 2. Burial is private.

Donations may be sent to the Brenda Bodner Memorial Fund, Grover Washington Jr. Middle School, 901 Arch St., Philadelphia 19107. The fund will benefit science education.

Contact staff writer Gayle Ronan Sims at 215-854-4185 or

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