Matthew Fraling Jr., 72, musician, region director of rehabilitation services

November 07, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Matthew B. Fraling Jr., former Baltimore region director of the Maryland State Department of Education's Division of Rehabilitation Services and a noted musician, died Friday of an aneurysm at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Randallstown resident was 72.

Mr. Fraling began working in 1966 as a counselor in the Rockville office of what was then the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, and transferred to the Baltimore region two years later. He was regional director from 1978 until retiring in 1992.

"Matt truly believed in the agency's mission in providing opportunities, and you saw that in his actions. He made sure folks who were often denied opportunities had access to them," said Robert A. Burns, the agency's assistant state superintendent.

"He provided extraordinary services for the mentally and physically challenged," Mr. Burns said. "He was a strong advocate for them and made things happen. He helped find them jobs. He also had vision, passion and a terrific network of people he'd call on."

"He established a program in public schools that was quite unique in the state, that helped them transition from school to work. He also worked jointly in programs that helped the addicted," said Patrick W. McKenna, direct of client services for the agency and a friend of 22 years.

Mr. Fraling helped establish the Model Cities social services program in Baltimore in the early 1970s. "It was a storefront program in communities that provided access to vocational rehabilitation, jobs and medical needs. It was a one-stop shopping program that helped people find the assistance they needed in one location," Mr. McKenna said.

State Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, an East Baltimore Democrat and friend of more than 30 years, said, "He was just an outstanding community person and a genuinely kind man who contributed in so many ways to helping people. He just wanted to better their lives."

Mr. Fraling was born and raised in South Baltimore. Born into a musical family that enjoyed singing, he learned to play the piano, saxophone and violin, and studied at the Peabody Conservatory.

His dream of becoming a concert violinist was ended by an accident that injured his left arm, and turned him toward a career in vocational rehabilitation.

After graduating from Douglass High School in 1947, he enlisted in the Air Force and served in intelligence until being discharged in 1951. He also performed with USO shows and sang on Armed Forces Radio, family members said.

Returning to Baltimore, he earned his bachelor's degree in psychology from Morgan State College in 1956, and a master's degree in vocational rehabilitation from Coppin State College. He earned his doctorate from Union Institute in Cincinnati in 1980.

Before going to work for the state, he taught music in Prince George's County public schools and at Cardinal Gibbons High School, and during the 1960s was song leader and soloist in summertime city parks concerts with the Baltimore Municipal Band.

At the invitation of Coretta Scott King and Christine Farris, widow and sister of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., respectively, he performed "Four Freedom Songs" at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta in 1969.

For many years, he was cantor and master musician at St. Gregory the Great Roman Catholic Church in West Baltimore.

"He planned the music for my ordination," said the Rev. Maurice Blackwell, who had been a seminarian at St. Gregory's. "He was revolutionary. He could translate Latin chants into the vernacular and introduced African hymns into the church in the 1970s. He was a brilliant musician whose range went from the classical to traditional to pop music."

Services will be held at noon today at Sharp Street United Methodist Church, Dolphin and Etting streets.

Survivors include his wife of 16 years, the former Valerie E. Lee; a son, Matthew B. Fraling III of Baltimore; three brothers, Thomas E. Fraling of Philadelphia, John H. Fraling of Baltimore and Robert A. Clark of Red Lion, Pa.; three sisters, Marie A. Singleton, Katie V. Dixon and Ethel M. Gordon, all of Baltimore; two stepsons, Keith Lee of Baltimore and Michael Lee of Owings Mills; a stepdaughter, Lisa Lee Packer of Hanau, Germany; and five grandchildren.

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