Jean M. Zawitoski dies

Lifelong Democrat co-founded the Consolidated Democratic Club in Arbutus

  • Jean Marie Given Zawitoski
Jean Marie Given Zawitoski (Baltimore Sun )
March 10, 2011|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Jean Marie Zawitoski, a former registered nurse who was active in Southwestern Baltimore County Democratic politics for years, died March 2 at a hospital in Englewood, Fla., from complications of a fall.

The longtime Relay resident was 84.

Jean Marie Given, the daughter of a glass worker and a school teacher, was born in Baltimore and raised in Morrell Park.

Graduating in 1944 from Western High School, she earned her nursing degree three years later from St. Agnes Hospital School of Nursing.

After obtaining her nursing degree, she served in the Nurse Cadet Corps that had been established during World War II by the U.S. Public Health Service.

In the fall of 1947, she met her future husband, Edward Leonard Zawitoski, on a blind date.

"She proposed to him on Valentine's Day in 1948, because it was a leap year, and, as she put it, 'I was a feminist — ahead of my time,'" said a daughter, JoAnne Zawitoski Fernandez, a senior principal at the Baltimore law firm of Semmes, Bowen & Semmes, who lives in Columbia.

They were married that year.

Mrs. Zawitoski later returned to St. Agnes Hospital, where she worked for eight years, and then became a nurse in 1955 for a Catonsville physician.

During the late 1950s and 1960s, when her husband worked for the U.S. Forest Service, Mrs. Zawitoski often traveled with him.

"She'd travel with her husband and four children who were under 5 years old in a station wagon, riding across the U.S. and visiting National Parks in every state," recalled Ms. Fernandez.

After returning to Relay, she worked as a legal secretary for Norman Summers, an Arbutus attorney, and then during the 1960s, was administrative assistant to Maryland Sen. Harry J. Connolly Sr., and later state Del. Stephen J. Arata.

From 1975 to 1985, she was membership director at the Maryland Science Center and was also a licensed real estate agent and notary public.

In the late 1970s, Mrs. Zawitoski returned to college and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Baltimore in 1976, graduating summa cum laude.

During the 1970s, two of her articles, "Revisionist Historians' Cold War Views," and "National Character as a Detriment in American Foreign Policy," were published in what is now the Towson University Journal of International Affairs.

Mrs. Zawitoski, a lifelong Democrat, and her husband founded the Consolidated Democratic Club.

"One of her biggest thrills was attending the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City in 1964," her daughter said. "In 1968, she was an unsuccessful candidate for delegate to the Maryland Constitutional Convention."

"She was a power in Catonsville when Harry Connolly was state senator. She was very active as a campaign adviser and later became his chief of staff," said retired Baltimore County District Judge John C. Coolahan, a former state senator who shared a district with him.

"She was very, very intelligent and knew politics. She was well versed in it and did a good job of running his office," Judge Coolahan said. "While we didn't see eye to eye politically, she was a very nice person."

The longtime Francis Avenue resident was active in the community and was active with her husband on the Arbutus Fourth of July Parade Committee, where they raised money for the annual parade.

Mrs. Zawitoski was a frequent contributor to the letters-to-the-editor column of local newspapers, writing widely on politics and political and social issues.

She and her husband moved in 1990 to Englewood, where she enjoyed playing bingo, watching "Jeopardy," and dining with friends every Friday night at the Hills Country Club in Rotonda West, Fla.

She was a communicant of St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church in Grove City, Fla.

"She valued family, love and compassion above all else, and she loved to laugh," Ms. Ferandez said. "Her favorite saying was, 'If we do not all hang together, we will surely hang separately.' "

Mrs. Zawitoski was a communicant of St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church, 5976 Old Washington Road, Elkridge, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. today.

Also surviving are her husband, a retired NASA auditor; three sons, John P. Zawitoski of Severn, Gregory T. Zawitoski of Eldersburg and Edward M. Zawitoski of West Friendship; three other daughters, Denise M. Z. Keehner of Greenbelt, Christina L. Z. Englehart of Pasadena and Tracy J.Z. Blauch of Sykesville; 14 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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