Ann Matukaitis, court social worker


August 06, 1993|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Staff Writer

Ann F. Matukaitis, a Harford County Circuit Court social worker who developed a program to help resolve adoption and divorce cases involving children, died Tuesday of cancer at Fallston General Hospital. She was 46.

Ms. Matukaitis also was a volunteer who helped cancer patients regain their confidence with makeup, hats and wigs after losing their hair and suffering other problems related to chemotherapy.

Friends and co-workers said she believed that helping patients look good would make them feel better.

"She would come to the group in spite of her own illness, and it was important to her that she lived with cancer and not died with cancer," remembered Jane Conrad, an oncology nurse at Greater Baltimore Medical Center who worked with Ms. Matukaitis. "She took money out of her own pocket and bought patients special scarves and hats that they could wear home. It ** was something that she did to make them feel good."

Even as she struggled with the disease, she did not allow it to interfere with her work.

"Ann was a pioneer in the field of divorce mediation in the state," said William O. Carr, Harford County Circuit Court judge.

"It's one of the most difficult and emotionally draining fields of social work. She impacted the judicial system and people's lives in a positive way by helping them get control of their lives. And believe me, that takes skill."

"Ann was able to change through her skills and personality the outcome of custody cases, added Wilbur W. Bolton, a Harford County attorney. "She led us or dragged us to reduce costs and to reach agreements between parents. She changed how the courthouse operated, and people placed great faith in her evaluations. Her goals were to see that a child was safe, secure and being raised by an appropriate parent."

"She was a super lady, more of a friend than a boss," recalled Peggy McElwain, her secretary for the last eight years. "She was so well liked and respected because of her work with custody and adoption cases."

Judge Carr and other friends noted that she worked until the very end of her life, often in great pain.

"She had been in the hospital so often and come out, that we thought that this would happen again," he said. He and others attributed her survival and ability to cope with her illness to a refined sense of humor that was often self-effacing.

"Last week we shared a pizza, and she said of a case that it was worse than breast cancer," he said.

"Up till the end she was still making jokes," said Mr. Bolton. "She told someone that she had outpatient brain surgery and when they asked where, she said, 'On my head, stupid.'

"It's a great loss. She fought her cancer valiantly and displayed tremendous courage," Mr. Bolton said.

She grew up in Kingsville, the daughter of Dr. J. Howard Franz, a radiologist, and Charlotte Franz, a nurse. She attended the Bryn Mawr School and Baltimore County Schools, graduating from Parkville High School in 1964. She received her bachelor's degree from Western Maryland College in 1968 and her master's in social work from the University of Maryland in 1985.

Ms. Matukaitis began her professional career in 1968 as a probation officer in Baltimore County and in 1975 began working for the Baltimore County Circuit Court Adoption and Custody Unit as a probation and custody investigator.

She joined the Harford County Department of Social Services in 1981 as a court custody caseworker. There, in 1985, she created the position of child custody mediator working with the Harford County Circuit Court.

She married John J. Matukaitis in 1968. They were divorced in 1988.

For many years she was an active member of the Salem United Methodist Church in Upper Falls and had been a member of Fallston United Methodist Church since 1987. There she was active with the Care Givers, a group that visited shut-ins and the elderly. She also actively supported Our Daily Bread, a &r downtown soup kitchen, donating food that she made.

She was a member of the National Association of Social Workers and the American Association of Family Conciliation Courts. She also was a senior member with consultant status of the Academy of Family Mediators and a field instructor for the University of Maryland School of Social Work.

At the time of her death, she had finished writing a book for children on divorce titled "Just for [The child's own name] and Other Special Kids." It was designed to help children survive the family breakups and assure them that they were not responsible. Her daughters plan to have the book published.

A memorial service was to be held at 7:30 p.m. today at Fallston United Methodist Church, 1509 Fallston Road.

She is survived by two daughters, Lauren E. Matukaitis and Kira A. Matukaitis of Fallston; a brother, John H. Franz Jr. of Kingsville; three sisters, Emily S. Clarke and Julia L. Brown of Kingsville and Sara E. Hutchin of Media, Pa.; and her parents.

The family suggests donations to the American Cancer Society.

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