Janet Dolores Hill Commodore, affectionately known as “Dolores” and “Sister”, went home to be with her Lord on Friday, April 24, 2020, after a long illness. Born on June 22, 1927, to the late Viola M. Hill and James A. Jordan, Janet was the 2nd of five children.
She was educated in the St. Mary’s County public school system and graduated from Jarboesville High School. She earned a B.S. Degree in Education in 1948 from Bowie State Teacher’s College (now Bowie State University) and a Masters of Arts Degree in 1961 from Columbia University in New York City.
Her teaching career began in 1948 in the segregated one-room schoolhouse educational system in Dorchester County, Maryland, teaching students from first through sixth grade in the same classroom. Upon her marriage, she transferred to Wicomico County to continue her teaching career. During the early 1960s when the public schools in Maryland were working towards desegregation, she became the first black teacher to integrate Beaver Run Elementary School in Salisbury, MD. She then moved into school administration, serving as the Vice-Principal at East Salisbury Elementary School and Salisbury First Grade Center (now Charles H. Chipman Elementary School). Each of the principals with whom Janet worked had high praise for both her competence and her graceful qualities. She retired in 1983 after completing 34 years in education, including eleven years in administration.
Janet was introduced by mutual friends to the love of her life, Rev. George O. Commodore and they were united in marriage on May 21, 1960. Their union was blessed with one daughter, Paula Lynne.
After their marriage, they relocated to Salisbury, Maryland, and began a life of ministry together, with Janet serving as the pastor’s wife and “first lady” to several churches from Pocomoke, MD to Wilmington, DE, including Mt. Zion/Trinity/St. James United Methodist Churches – Pocomoke City, MD; Waugh United Methodist Church – Cambridge, MD; and Whatcoat United Methodist Church in Dover, DE. Using her gift of teaching, Janet taught church school and vacation bible school wherever they served. Janet was also a vital member at the United Methodist District Conference level, serving as secretary for the following conference committees: Conference Council on Ministries, Ethnic Minority Local Church Committee, Missional Priority Committee, and Bishop’s Retreat Committee. She served on the mission team for the Peninsula-Delaware Conference, training teachers and working with churches in Christian education. She also traveled to North Carolina, Texas, and other areas for training rallies and retreats.
Janet felt that God had placed her on this earth to help mankind, a role which she commendably achieved. As a young adult, she was suddenly thrust into a caregiver role when her older brother, Leonard Hill, became a paraplegic as a result of an auto accident. After rehabilitation, he moved in with Janet and she cared for him until he was able to be independent. During this time, their mother passed away, leaving the younger sisters who were ages 10 and under. Janet also became their guardian for a time. Although the sisters later were raised by other relatives, Janet remained a constant presence in their lives and brought them to live with her during the summers when school was out of session.
Janet thoroughly loved teaching and considered it her calling. Many of her students, now well into adulthood, recall her as their favorite teacher. She kept pictures of all her students in a photo album and was able to remember most of the students that she taught.
Janet was a loving mother to her daughter Paula and considered her one of her greatest joys. She immersed herself in the role of motherhood and made sure that her daughter was exposed to a multitude of cultural and social activities. Janet rarely missed a dance recital, piano concert, band competition, Girl Scout meeting, or other events in which her daughter participated. Both Janet and George stressed the importance of knowing African-American History, and family vacations were often centered around visiting museums and other sites where Paula could see and learn about these important historical role models.
After her husband suffered a series of strokes, Janet became his caregiver for 12 years until he passed in February 2006. After his passing, Janet joined the Third Time Around Dance team, a group of older adult women who performed at various local venues. She was also active in exercise classes, took piano lessons, and enjoyed crocheting; making scarves, hats, blankets, and ponchos for family and friends, as well as the newborns at Peninsula General Hospital in Salisbury, MD. Janet loved poetry and plays, both writing and reciting. Her favorite poet was Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and she could often be overheard reciting his poetry while cooking and cleaning around the house.
Her associations and memberships included the Retired Teachers Association, the National Education Association, and the Lower Shore Bowie University Alumni Association, where she served as chaplain for many years until her health declined.
Janet was a woman of faith and lived out her purpose in serving others. She was an active member of Wesley Temple United Methodist Church where she served as a greeter for Sunday worship services, was a member of the United Methodist Women and Older Adult Ministries, sang with the Chancel Choir and was the pastor’s church secretary for 2 years. She also produced several plays as fundraisers for the church, including “The Hats”. Her passing is a profound and memorable loss to Wesley Temple Church.
Janet leaves to cherish her memory her loving daughter, Paula Lynne Commodore of Glenn Dale, MD; two sisters Brenda Rodgers of Belle Chase LA and Bronte Miller of Valley Lee, MD; two sisters-in-law Virginia Commodore of Chestertown, MD and Lollie Commodore of Silver Spring, MD; longtime neighbor and friend Charles Goslee of Salisbury, MD; one goddaughter Dr. Vonda Goslee Green of Wyoming, DE, and a host of nieces, nephews and other relatives.
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