Barbara Reiter

[ Age 63] The pediatric nurse was inspired to take up the profession after her daughter underwent heart surgery.

February 18, 2007|By Julie Scharper | Julie Scharper,sun reporter

Barbara A. Reiter, who became a nurse in her 40s after being inspired by the medical professionals who cared for one of her daughters, died Wednesday of gall bladder cancer at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson. She was 63.

Born Barbara Winchester in Catonsville, she moved to the Ten Oaks neighborhood in Baltimore with her family as a girl. She and her future husband, Robert A. Reiter Jr., were neighbors and childhood friends who went to a Halloween party on their first date.

Mrs. Reiter graduated from Mount de Sales Academy in 1960 and married Mr. Reiter two years later. They briefly lived in Fort Lewis, Wash., and Catonsville before settling in Bel Air, where they raised four children.

The couple's youngest child was born with a heart defect in 1976 and underwent open-heart surgery a year later at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Mrs. Reiter stayed in the hospital with her daughter for four weeks and was deeply impressed by the doctors and nurses she met there.

"That really inspired my mother," said the daughter, Courtney Dunevant, who made a full recovery. At age 40, Mrs. Reiter enrolled in nursing school at Harford Community College. She graduated at the top of her class in 1985, her daughter said.

"We were all very proud of her and pulling for her," said another daughter, Karen Reiter of Baltimore.

Mrs. Reiter lobbied hard for a job in the pediatrics department where her daughter had been a patient, and she was hired soon after graduation. She worked there until she became ill last fall.

"She felt the exact same way about the children on her floor that she did about her children at home," said Mrs. Dunevant, a Baltimore resident. Mrs. Reiter kept albums of photos of her patients and referred to them as her children, her daughter said.

Miss Reiter recalled seeing many children wave at her mother as she walked the hallways of Children's Ward 6 at the hospital.

"She seemed to know exactly what to do," she said. "You could hand her a crying baby, and the baby would stop crying."

Jessica Mays, a nurse who worked with Mrs. Reiter for two years, said that she was a mentor for the other nurses.

"She had so much experience and so much knowledge that we were always able to go to her, and she would have good advice," she said.

In her free time, Mrs. Reiter enjoyed taking her three granddaughters on outings to feed ducks or paint pumpkins. She sewed smocked dresses for them, as she did for her daughters when they were girls.

An avid bridge player who learned the game from her grandparents, Mrs. Reiter taught many of her younger relatives to play. She also shared her love of knitting with her family. "She would get everyone to knit at family beach weeks," Miss Reiter said.

A funeral Mass is scheduled for noon tomorrow at St. William of York Roman Catholic Church, 600 Cooks Lane in Baltimore.

In addition to her husband, daughters and granddaughters, Mrs. Reiter is survived by a son, Robert A. Reiter III of Severna Park; another daughter, Christine Krouse of Arlington, Va.; a sister, Mary R. McDade of Baltimore; and a brother, Albert "Gee" Winchester of Falls Church, Va.

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