Charles Joseph Mullen, a retired substance abuse counselor credited with helping many people with drug and alcohol problems during nearly three decades of working with Baltimore County government employees, died of heart disease Monday at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital. The North Baltimore resident was 79.
Born in Archbald, Pa., he entered the Roman Catholic Jesuit order in 1943 and earned bachelor's degrees in English and theology, a master's degree in education and an advanced degree in philosophy -- all at the old Woodstock College in Baltimore County.
He taught at Loyola High School from 1950 to 1953 and was ordained a priest in 1956. He then worked in Baltimore as an administrator of Jesuit priests and brothers on missionary assignments in India.
About 40 years ago, he decided to leave his order. Family members said he was an alcoholic, and he had decided to get sober -- entering Springfield Hospital Center for a month.
In the early 1970s, he became an addictions counselor and initially worked at a Johns Hopkins Hospital alcoholic treatment center.
"I once told him, `You've helped more people in your present job than you would have as a priest,'" said the Rev. Joseph Kennedy, a friend and Jesuit priest at Loyola College. "The number of people who owe him their sobriety is innumerable. Charlie was obviously a saint."
After becoming a certified addictions counselor, he began working in 1974 for Baltimore County's Bureau of Mental Health and its Division of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Before retiring last year, he had assisted an estimated 2,000 people in dealing with alcohol and drug abuse, officials said.
"I think he never fully appreciated his own gifts, the number of jobs and the lives he saved. He was so humble," said Dr. Barbara A. McLean, former medical director of the county's employee health services. "He was easy to talk to, honest, and you could trust him."
In the 1970s, he set up Baltimore County's program for treating and counseling substance abusers. He had his office in a private office building so employees could visit him without co-workers knowing. Friends said he often put clients at ease with his humor.
"Whatever the hour, Charlie had the time for you. I don't think he knew the word `no,'" said Michael Gimbel, director of substance abuse education at Sheppard Pratt Health System.
He was a member of the Baltimore County Advisory Council for Alcohol and Drug Abuse for 15 years, and also belonged to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
In 1992, he received the Baltimore County Medical Association's Distinguished Service Award, and in 2001 the Marty Mann Award for outstanding community service from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church, Hickory Avenue and 37th Street, Hampden.
Survivors include his wife of 38 years, the former Patricia Schulz; a stepson, Royce Shipley of Baltimore; three brothers, Thomas M. Mullen of Easton, N.J., William J. Mullen of Childs, Pa., and Robert M. Mullen of Scotch Plains, N.J.; and two sisters who are nuns, Sister Carolyn Mullen of Delran, N.J., and Sister Ellen Mullen of Scranton, Pa.