Carl Frank Szuba, who for more than 30 years headed programs and fund raising for the disabled in Anne Arundel County, died Friday morning of cancer at his home in Riviera Beach. He was 73.
In 1968, Mr. Szuba's youngest son, Robert, was born with Down syndrome. The event propelled Mr. Szuba into projects supporting the mentally and physically disabled for the rest of his life. In that time, he raised more than $100,000 for Providence Center, a special-education school in Arnold, and for the Anne Arundel County Association of Retarded Citizens.
"Sometimes he was like a bull in a china shop, but you had to like him because he was absolutely so dedicated," said Lorraine Sheehan, a Providence Center board member and past president of the Anne Arundel County Association for Retarded Citizens. "I can't tell you how much he raised - not in $100,000 contributions, but a nickel and a dollar at a time."
A favorite event he organized was an annual Polka Party fund-raiser. The event, which marked its 30th anniversary last year, draws hundreds of people, including many from out of state. But he spearheaded smaller efforts, too, such as the placement of a model dinosaur inside a Glen Burnie Wal-Mart to lure contributions of loose change.
Mr. Szuba was instrumental in establishing a respite care home for disabled young adults in Linthicum. The home allowed families to take a break and leave a disabled child in the hands of competent caregivers for a day or two.
At an Anne Arundel County budget meeting in 1991, Mr. Szuba provided a startling contrast to the scores of others who showed up to ask for money or fire off criticism at officials, according to an article in The Sun. Stepping up to the microphone, he described how the county Parks and Recreation Department was struggling to find money for a bus lift. He then presented county officials with $1,000 toward a wheelchair ramp and "to keep the bus going."
He tried to say more about the needs of the disabled. But his voice choked with emotion, so he apologized and returned to his seat as the room filled with applause.
His efforts earned him the gratitude of many. In 1988, Rep. Tom McMillen saw to it that Mr. Szuba was recognized in the Congressional Record for his work. Maxwell House coffee named him one of its 100 "Real Heroes" during a ceremony in Nashville, Tenn., in 1992. And he received a Governor's Citation for his work from Gov. Parris N. Glendening in 1996.
Mr. Szuba was born in Baltimore and attended Southern High School.
He worked as a crane operator with the B&O Railroad, and served as union shop steward of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, retiring in 1988 after 37 years. In addition, he worked for 24 years as a part-time deputy for the Anne Arundel County Sheriff's Office, a position he retired from in 1988.
A funeral Mass will be offered at 9 a.m. tomorrow at St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church in Curtis Bay.
Mr. Szuba is survived by his wife of 52 years, Doris Lorraine Johnson Szuba; four sons, Michael Szuba and Francis Szuba, both of Pasadena, and Carl J. Szuba and Robert Szuba, both of Riviera Beach; two daughters, Barbara Fischer of North Attleboro, Mass., and Rosemarie Collins of Linthicum; two brothers, Gilbert Szuba of Riviera Beach and Joseph Shuba of Brooklyn; three sisters, Mary Szwabowski of Brooklyn Park, Helen Jarkiewicz of Linthicum and Bernadine Lopez of Laurel; eleven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Contributions may be made to Providence Center in Arnold, the St. Athanasius Remodeling Fund at St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church in Curtis Bay, or Hospice of the Chesapeake in Millersville.