Jeanette Kaplan Fino, a retired art therapist who was arrested in an early Baltimore civil rights incident, died Monday of lung disease at Ruxton Health and Rehabilitation Center. She was 79 and had lived in Mount Washington for many years.
Until she retired five years ago, she worked in a mental health field in which clients create art to express their feelings in a nonverbal manner. A registered art therapist and certified professional counselor, she had a private practice and worked at the Compulsive Gambling Center on East Baltimore Street and at Spring Grove Hospital Center. She also taught art therapy at local colleges.
"She was an extraordinarily strong person, devoted to her profession," said Peggy Kolodny, a friend who is president of the Maryland Art Therapy Association. "She could be diplomatic -- and at the same time direct. She was an organizer and always wanted to educate the community about art therapy."
Mrs. Fino, who regularly displayed her watercolor paintings, also taught art to senior groups at the Waxter Center in Mount Vernon, Blakehurst and Bykota in Towson and the Weinberg Gardens in Pikesville.
"She was incredibly active and went to museums, operas or plays on a weekly basis," said Hildegard Fino, her daughter-in-law, who lives in Norwood Heights.
On July 11, 1948, Mrs. Fino was one of nearly two dozen black and white people arrested for playing tennis on a Druid Hill Park court designated "white only."
She was arrested and taken to the Northern District police station and later released by Judge Reuben Caplan. She had been playing doubles with a racially mixed foursome, which included Mitsi Swan, Mary Coffee and Gloria Stewart. As a result of the incident, park officials later changed the policy and allowed blacks and whites to play together.
"My only regret is that I wasn't always as courageous as I was at 26," she told Evening Sun columnist John Steadman in a 1989 interview. "The public response to what we were doing on the tennis courts was not completely favorable, but we knew it was right."
She said that her conscience had been upset during World War II when she boarded a bus in Virginia and the driver wouldn't move until all blacks moved to the back. "That was so degrading I never rode that bus again," she said in the 1989 interview.
Mrs. Fino was honored at a 1989 city parks exhibition at the Baltimore City Life Museums.
Born Jeanette Kaplan in Bayonne, N.J., she was raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. She won a scholarship to Cooper Union College of Art, but she interrupted her studies to do clerical work for the Department of the Navy during World War II. At age 50 she continued her education at the University Without Walls at Morgan State University, where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1974.
She earned a master's degree in art therapy at George Washington University in 1977.
A past president and 20-year board member of Maryland Art Therapy Association, she was also given a distinguished service award from the American Art Therapy Association.
Her marriage to Benjamin Fino ended in divorce in 1964. A son, Frederick Fino, died in 1987.
Mrs. Fino is survived by a granddaughter, Alexia Fino of San Diego; and nieces and nephews.
A memorial tribute will be held from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Weinberg Gardens multipurpose room, 1500 Bedford Ave., Pikesville.