Peter A. McCabe, 68, advocate for disabled, Howard Scout leader

April 04, 2005|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Peter A. McCabe, a retired federal advocate for the disabled who was active in Howard County Scouting and the rescue of people lost in the wilderness, died of congestive heart failure Thursday at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Columbia resident was 68.

Born in La Crosse, Wis., he served in the Army in Korea before earning a bachelor of arts degree from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.

"Peter had a speech impediment, a stutter, and in his early days he was afraid to speak in public," said his wife of 45 years, the former Nancie Elizabeth Marsh. "He worked at conquering it and completely turned himself around and often addressed groups."

Mr. McCabe took courses to help him speak and studied with experts while earning his master's degree in speech pathology from the University of Illinois at Urbana.

Mr. McCabe worked in psychoacoustics research for the Shilling Auditory Research Laboratory in Groton, Conn., in the 1960s and founded the Southeastern Connecticut Hearing and Speech Center. In 1972 he became director of a speech center in Port Arthur, Texas.

In 1975 he joined the Office for Handicapped Individuals in the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare where he was a researcher, ombudsman and advocate for the disabled to the Cabinet secretary and senior staff. He then became an assistant to the director of the White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals and in 1979 was assigned to the Office of Management and Budget to join a small team of individuals planning for what would be the Office for Civil Rights in the newly created Department of Education.

From 1980 to his retirement last year, Mr. McCabe worked in the Office for Civil Rights and dealt with compliance reports from public schools and post-secondary institutions.

Mr. McCabe was active in volunteer organizations in the area, serving terms as chairman of the Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference and the Pennsylvania Search and Rescue Council. About 30 times a year he directed searches for lost people from a base camp, often in mountains or wilderness. He and his volunteers looked for clues - a dropped piece of clothing or a footprint.

"He brought incredible enthusiasm to everything he did," said Peter Pennington, the current chairman of the Appalachian conference, who lives in Alexandria, Va. "He was a great believer in the volunteer side of search and rescue."

Mr. McCabe served as an adviser to the Boy Scouts' co-ed Venture Crew 616 in Columbia and held positions with the Baltimore Area Council and the National Pike District of the Boy Scouts of America. He also worked with the American Red Cross in disaster relief.

President George H.W. Bush named him a Point of Light for his volunteer work in the 1990s. He was Howard County's Volunteer of the Year in 1997 and, at a State House ceremony, was honored as one of Maryland's Most Beautiful People.

He was also awarded the Silver Beaver Award from the Baltimore Area Council of the Boy Scouts for his "distinguished service to youth" in 1994.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. today at First Presbyterian Church of Howard County, 9325 Presbyterian Circle, Columbia, where he was a member.

In addition to his wife, survivors include two sons, Sean A. McCabe of Greenfield Mills in Frederick County and Scott A. McCabe of York, Pa.; a daughter, Kathleen E. McCabe of Columbia; and three grandchildren.

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