Deborah Coady Kormuth was fearless.
Whether as a teen-ager soaring over a 10-foot fence on the back of a surging horse or arguing before hard-nosed judges on behalf of wayward juveniles, Debbie Kormuth lived her 65 years with courage, her friends said,
Mrs. Kormuth, a champion show rider in her youth who turned to social work after college, died of cancer Sunday at her home on Big Falls Road in White Hall.
"I didn't want to be a social worker when I went in to interview with her after college, I was just practicing for job interviews," said Susan Barnes, a former colleague in the Baltimore County office of the Juvenile Services Administration. "I came home and told my parents: 'I want this job!'
"She was the hardest worker I ever saw . . . she could relate to families rich or poor with dignity," Ms. Barnes said.
"She always did what was right whether it was what people liked or not. My life changed because of her."
Born Deborah Coady in Baltimore to attorney Charles Pearce Coady and the still-life artist Emma Louise Coady, she graduated from what is now the Notre Dame Preparatory School before earning a degree in psychology in 1948.
In the 1940s she became a well-known rider of hunters and jumpers at Maryland horse shows.
"She loved the sport and did it on her own, her parents didn't participate," said Kathleen Beers, a lifelong friend. "Debbie was independent, plucky and exceptionally good. She would school and exercise other people's horses, and when they saw how well she rode they'd ask her to ride their horse in a show."
But a few years after leaving Goucher College, in 1952, Mrs. Kormuth began working as a child-welfare case worker in what is now the Baltimore County Department of Social Services.
In 1966 she moved to the Juvenile Services Administration, first as a probation counselor and then as an intake counselor.
"She was fearless to the point of being reckless, she did not care where the chips fell," said Genevieve Parlett, a longtime colleague. "Never once did she look down her nose. If anybody needed help, it didn't matter who they were -- Debbie always made them feel like our best client."
Mrs. Kormuth was also active in the Baltimore County Youth Commission, the Children's Council, the Interagency Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect and the Coordinating Council for Youth Development.
She also became interested in conservation, as a member of the Wilderness Society, the Nature Conservancy, the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
At the time of her death, she had been breeding and training horses at her Bountiful Farm stable for about 10 years.
Married twice, Mrs. Kormuth is survived by a friend, George Bass of White Hall; two brothers, John T. Coady of St. Michaels and Charles Pearce Coady Jr. of Accomac, Va.; a son, David Beaudouin of Baltimore; and a grandson.
Private services were planned but the family suggested memorial contributions could be made to the First Step Youth Services Center in Randallstown or to the House of Ruth.