Charlotte J. "Jean" Vieta, a former laboratory assistant who later earned a law degree, died May 5 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, at her Monkton home. She was 66.
The daughter of William Purdum, an electrical engineer, and Charlotte Purdum, a homemaker, Charlotte Jean Purdum was born in Baltimore and raised at her family's home on Manor Road in Baldwin.
After graduating in 1965 from Dulaney High School, she earned a bachelor's degree in biology at what is now Towson University.
While attending Towson, Ms. Vieta, who never used her first name and was known as Jean, met and fell in love with another biology major, Rolando Vieta.
The couple married in 1970, and while her husband attended the University of Maryland School of Medicine, she worked as a laboratory assistant and helped her husband study for his medical exams.
In 1982, the couple and their three children moved to Devils Lake, N.D.
"In addition to raising her children, prairie skull hunting, hay bale jumping, pony riding and bedtime stories, she assisted in maintaining a family farm," said a daughter, Eva H. Shields of Parkville.
While living in North Dakota, Ms. Vieta began studying for a law degree at the University of North Dakota, which required her driving 90 miles to attend classes, her daughter said.
In 1989, the couple and their children returned to Maryland to be closer to family members, and Ms. Vieta resumed studying for her law degree at the University of Baltimore, from which she graduated in 1990.
"She enjoyed helping the less fortunate in a variety of ways, including providing pro bono legal work and advice and offering work around her house and property," said Ms. Shields. "But she never practiced law with a firm."
In 1996, she moved to Monkton, where she enjoyed working in her flower gardens and caring for her pets, especially her dog and an African grey parrot named Proton.
She also encouraged visitors to her garden to take home a bouquet of flowers, her daughter said.
Ms. Vieta was an inveterate reader and book collector and liked sharing her books with family and friends. She also collected art and antiques, which she often gave away as impromptu gifts to visitors.
"You had to be careful when you admired something," said Ms. Shields, "or you most likely would be taking it home with you."
A private celebration of Ms. Vieta's life for family and friends will be held June 8 at her Monkton home.
In addition to her husband, a retired Baltimore internist, and daughter, Ms. Vieta is survived by a son, Matthew Vieta of San Jose, Calif.; another daughter, Christina Cornell of Towson; four sisters, Margot Purdum of Parkton, Jane Franklin of Phoenix, Baltimore County, Elizabeth Purdum of Tallahassee, Fla., and Patricia Purdum of New Orleans; and two grandsons.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun