Mary Margaret Morton, 57, teacher, computer sales executive, volunteer

February 24, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Mary Margaret Morton, who rose from welfare as a divorced parent to earn a bachelor's degree and become a successful computer sales executive and educator, died of complications from gastric-bypass surgery Thursday at Good Samaritan Hospital. She was 57 and lived in the city's Pinehurst neighborhood.

She was born Mary Margaret Robitaille in New Bedford, Mass., and moved to Rockville as a child. After graduating from Wheaton High School in 1965, she married Charles J. Morton Sr., who worked in the construction industry. The marriage ended in divorce in the late 1970s.

"She was the most amazing person I've ever met and her story is remarkably inspiring," said a son, Charles J. Morton Jr., a Baltimore attorney.

"She had been a teen-age bride, and then when she was in her 30s had the courage to leave an unhappy marriage. She was a single mom with four children and on welfare when she decided to go to college at the University of Maryland," he said.

In 1982, Ms. Morton graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland with a bachelor's degree in computer science and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

"She had incredible tenacity. She chose computer science because she knew when she got her degree she'd be able to support her family. It took her 5 1/2 years and she also worked while going to school," he said.

Ms. Morton began her business career with Wang Laboratories. In 1987, she joined 3Com Corp., manufacturers of networking hardware and software, and rose to head the company's eastern sales office.

"After her youngest child graduated from high school in 1991, she traded in her stock options and returned to college for another stint as a student. She felt like she wanted to teach working-class kids," her son said.

In 1993, Ms. Morton earned a master's degree in elementary education and began teaching third- and fifth-grade pupils at Essex Elementary School.

Health problems prompted Ms. Morton to leave the classroom, and since 1998 she had been a multimedia specialist at Randallstown High School.

"She felt she could deal with her health issues less disruptively by working in a library," the son said.

At Randallstown, she helped with the school's mock trial team that dramatized legal cases, and was a mentor to students.

"She had a fantastic sense of humor and was always upbeat and pleasant. She was well-liked by both faculty and students and because she saw humor in situations, she was easy to work with," said Elizabeth A. "Betty" Vedeloff, acting multimedia specialist at the high school.

"She'd always find the kids with problems and then mentor them. She was great at counseling and encouraging them. And of course, many would gravitate toward her," she said.

Because of failing health, Ms. Morton retired in December.

Ms. Morton realized a dream last year when she led the effort that resulted in a family home being built on Deep Creek Lake, where she had taken her family on vacations for years.

"The home, known as Unforgettable, complete with eight bedrooms and an indoor pool, provides ample room for family gatherings. It stands as a monument to her optimism and faith in family," her son said.

She was an avid reader and had been a volunteer and board member for the South Baltimore Learning Center.

Ms. Morton was a communicant of St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church in Rodgers Forge. She also attended daily Mass at the Carmelite Monastery, 1318 Dulaney Valley Road, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today.

She is also survived by another son, Kevin Michael Morton of Timonium; two daughters, Paula Marie Carren of Damascus, Montgomery County, and Joanne Christine Frailer of Bel Air; her father, Leo Robitaille of Naples, Fla.; a sister, Jane Lancaster of St. Inigoes; 14 grandchildren; and a niece.

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