Joseph P. Vitt Jr. remembered for charisma, beating disability

June 07, 1991|By David Michael Ettlin

Joseph P. Vitt Jr., who did his best and kept co-workers smiling at the Ellicott Enterprises sheltered workshop for the retarded in Howard County, died of pneumonia Wednesday at his home in Columbia.

Mr. Vitt, 33, who was retarded from birth and had cerebral palsy, was a member of a packaging crew at the largely state-funded workshop in Ellicott City. He had been employed there since 1988, and was working most recently on repackaging wild bird seed for retail sales under a workshop contract with a feed company.

"Joe was a valued employee here," said John Callanan, director of Ellicott Enterprises, which currently has 101 retarded workers providing a wide range of services for area companies and government agencies.

Despite his disabilities, Mr. Vitt "never missed a beat," said his mother, Mary D. Vitt.

"He made everybody laugh," Mrs. Vitt said. "Joey was a strong-willed person. He had great charisma. His instructor said Joey wasn't retarded -- he was a fun person to be around, and he was doing so well at Ellicott Enterprises.

"He was an important worker. . . . There might be four or five differentstages to go through, but Joey knew them all. He was like a perfectionist. If he took something out of the refrigerator, he made sure he put it back on exactly the same spot."

Mr. Vitt was born in Camden, N.J., and lived in several places around the country with his family before they settled in Columbia 12 years ago.

He enjoyed camping with his parents in Falling Waters, W.Va., swimming, playing basketball, listening to hard rock music and having vanilla ice cream every night.

"And his favorite color was red," Mrs. Vitt said. "He's going to wear a red suit."

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Monday in St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church in Merchantville, N.J., where Mr. Vitt was christened.

He is survived by his parents, Mary D. and Joseph P. Vitt Sr. of Winter Moss Court in Columbia; two brothers, Paul D. Vitt of Lindenwold, N.J., and Michael D. Vitt of Westminster; his sister, Mary D. Vitt of Laurel; and many aunts, uncles and cousins.

The family suggested memorial donations to Ellicott Enterprises, 11735 Homewood Road, Ellicott City 21043. His mother said, "He was just so happy, we figured we wanted Joey to always be remembered there."

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