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Naomi McCord, 83, Baha'i teacher

Published January 26, 2005

ST. PETERSBURG - For two days, family and friends kept vigil at Naomi McCord's bedside, praying and singing. Sunday at 10 a.m., minutes after her only sister returned to her bedside, the well-known Baha'i teacher and social justice worker died.

She was 83.

In keeping with Baha'i tradition, the faith she adopted at age 24, Mrs. McCord was buried within 24 hours of her death.

Her friends say she was serene, a person who didn't judge people by the color of their skin, where they lived or what they believed.

"I believe that she was one of the most influential peacemakers in the Tampa Bay area," said Sharon Joy Kleitsch, who knew her for about a decade.

The Bahai faith, founded more than 150 years ago by Bahaullah, the son of a wealthy Iranian family, teaches there is only one God and one race. Bahaullah advocated universal education, a universal auxiliary language, world peace and banishment of extreme wealth and poverty. Mrs. McCord had read Baha'i prayers at the annual St. Petersburg Interfaith Thanksgiving Service and other interfaith events. Besides representing the Baha'is on the St. Petersburg Clergy Association, she was a member of Congregations United for Community Action, or CUCA, and the former Color Me Human-Tampa Bay organization.

Turning to the Baha'i faith as a young wife, she led her family - sister, mother, husband, father and children - to the religion.

After retiring as assistant to the dean of the school of engineering and applied science at Washington University in St. Louis, Mrs. McCord and her late husband, "Mac," served as caretakers of the National Baha'i Center in Kingston, Jamaica. She has willed more than 200 volumes from her extensive Baha'i library to the center. Some of the more fragile books will be used to raise funds for the local assembly.

The East St. Louis native died of leukemia. She is survived by her sister, Mildred Birkett; five children, Kevin, Karen, Kerry, Karl and Joyce; eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Mrs. McCord's family will hold a memorial gathering 7 p.m. Feb. 19, at the St. Petersburg Baha'i Center, 676 Second Ave. S.

[Last modified January 26, 2005, 00:13:15]

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