Maria Lee Garitee, a retired guidance counselor whose work with handicapped children went far beyond her school duties, died Friday at her home in Towson after a five-year battle with cancer. She was 64.
An educator in Baltimore County for 33 years, Mrs. Garitee committed her life to helping others, said her daughter Meridith Muehleib of Fairfax Station, Va.
"She wasn't satisfied to just get her handicapped students through school, she also worked hard to prepare them for the community and job market after graduating," Mrs. Muehleib said.
Mrs. Garitee was a guidance counselor at Battle Monument School, a school for handicapped youngsters in eastern Baltimore County, for 20 years until her retirement in 1987.
"She initiated the parent-infant program at Battle Monument and two other Baltimore County schools for the handicapped," Mrs. Muehleib said. "The program helped identify infants with special needs and provide them with services that were generally not available to them until they became school-age."
Mrs. Garitee helped parents become aware of resources available to them and their handicapped children and often testified in court on their behalf.
Born Maria Lee Zaetz, she grew up in the Baltimore area. She was a 1947 graduate of the former Girls Latin School in Baltimore and earned a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Towson State University. She continued graduate studies at the Johns Hopkins University, Western Maryland College and the University of Maryland. Her career as an educator began in 1954 at Victory Villa Elementary School in Baltimore County. She taught at Sparrows Point Elementary School in 1965 and was a guidance counselor at Woodvale Elementary School in 1966 before joining the staff at Battle Monument in 1967.
She also was a teacher for the Baltimore County adult education program and taught graduate courses at Loyola College.
Her husband of almost 43 years, Jerome R. Garitee, a historian and professor, recently retired from Essex Community College.
Mrs. Garitee enjoyed drawing, painting and needlework. She was an avid reader and golfer and liked traveling, gardening and spent much of her time volunteering for community service projects.
She was a member of the board of directors for the Baltimore County Department of Social Services from 1974 to 1982; a unit chairman for the Perry Hall League of Women Voters in the 1960s; president of the Baltimore County Council for Exceptional Children in the 1960s; district manager and volunteer for the Baltimore County Democratic Party Reform Candidates, and president of the Green Acres Garden Club in Towson from 1989 to 1991.
"She had a lifetime commitment to helping people who couldn't help herself," Mr. Garitee said. "She never spoke of her own achievements, but always encouraged others to live up to their potential." A memorial service is at 3:30 p.m. today at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.
Besides her husband and daughter, survivors include two other daughters, Mary Lynn Laubach and Andrea Batton, both of Baltimore; two brothers, William Zaetz of Glen Burnie and Michael Zaetz of Linthicum; three grandsons; and five granddaughters.
The family suggested memorial contributions to Camp Glyndon for Diabetic Children, 2 Reservoir Circle, Suite 203, Baltimore 21208.