Jeanne Baetjer

Jeanne Baetjer ( )

Jeanne H. Baetjer, a founder who served as the first president of the board of trustees of the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, died Sept. 11 of cancer at her Stevenson home. She was 91.

"Jeanne was one of the founders of the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, and it is obvious that we have lost someone who was very special," said Dr. John Chessare, GBMC HealthCare president and CEO.

"She was a very strong leader, and without her ability to respectfully put issues on the table, GBMC would not exist today," said Dr. Chessare. "We're thankful for what she did, and we're going to miss her."

"Jeanne was one of the storied civic philanthropists in Baltimore and one of the great old ladies," W. Brooks Paternotte, executive director of the Irvine Nature Center.

The daughter of Charles R. Hook, who was chairman of the board of Armco Steel Corp., and Leah May Hook, a homemaker, Jeanne Catherine Hook was born and raised in Middletown, Ohio.

She graduated in 1940 from the Westover School in Middlebury, Conn., and in 1943 married H. Norman Baetjer Jr., an Army captain. After his discharge in 1945, the couple settled permanently in the Green Spring Valley.

A 1950 article in The Evening Sun stated that Mrs. Baetjer volunteered at the Johns Hopkins Hospital canteen, the Children's Aid Society and the Women's Guild at St. Thomas' Episcopal Church in Garrison.

Mrs. Baetjer was also active on the board of the Hospital for the Women of Maryland in Bolton Hill, and in 1958, she and other community leaders realized that there was a need for a hospital in the Towson area.

In 1962, she was named president of the board of the Hospital for the Women of Maryland, and played a key role in the merger of not only her hospital but also the Presbyterian Eye, Ear and Throat Charity Hospital, resulting in GBMC.

"She believed a hospital was needed in Towson and she studied that need, brought people together and worked with the engineers, planners and designers and oversaw its construction from 1962 to 1965," said Dr. Chessare.

"So for five decades she has continued to be a philanthropic force at GBMC and an inspirational leader for the Women's Hospital Foundation," he said. "She was a guiding light to me and in bringing health care services to the community."

Mrs. Baetjer who has been described as a "grande dame of petite stature," was a person of towering strength and determination.

"She was a straightforward person and someone who was comfortable saying things directly," said Dr. Chessare. "She was always very thoughtful and willing to listen. She was delightful to work with."

Mrs. Baetjer was deeply honored when the H. Norman Baetjer Jr. and Jeanne H. Baetjer Center for Nursing Excellence was established at GBMC, supporting the professional development needs of nursing students and coordinating orientation and educational opportunities for nurses.

More than 20 years ago, Mrs. Baetjer joined with several others in founding the HopeWell Cancer Support Center in Brooklandville.

"Mrs. Baetjer was one of the founders of HopeWell with a group of other people in the Green Spring Valley who wanted to do something for people with cancer," said Suzanne Brace, who has been its executive director since it opened its doors in 1993.

"She was part of a core group of 10 people who had met for a couple of years. She was incredibly helpful and introduced me to a lot of people," said Ms. Brace. "Jeanne had an indomitable spirit and was very loyal friend to the organization and me. She always had a twinkle in her eye, even in the darkest moments."

Mrs. Baetjer was an avid gardener and a conservationist. She helped in the early stages of cleaning up the Jones Falls, which ran through the fields of her 100-acre home in Stevenson, where she lived for 63 years.

The 1975 cleanup was a joint effort of the Green Spring Valley Garden Club and the Irvine Nature Center, where Mrs. Baetjer was founding board president in 1975. She remained on its board in the intervening decades.

"She was also a very generous donor and was always dedicated to her causes," said Mr. Paternotte. "When she got involved, she became a leader and wanted things done the right way."

Mrs. Baetjer had placed her land in the hands of the Maryland Environmental Trust.

"Farmland is disappearing," Mrs. Baetjer told the Associated Press in a 1998 interview. "There isn't enough green space. Children can't see an open field anymore."

Mrs. Baetjer who was a member and judge for the Garden Club of America, was known for her flower-arranging skills. She was the author of "Fitness for Flowers," a how-to guide for making cut flowers last.

Other beneficiaries of her philanthropy included the Sheridan Libraries at the Johns Hopkins University, the opera, symphony and small church choirs.

Her husband, who was president of the Monumental Brick and Supply Co., died in 2001.

She was a former communicant of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, where she was the church's first female member of its vestry.

Mrs. Baetjer was later a founding member and longtime parishioner of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Lutherville, where a memorial service was held Sept. 14.

Surviving are two sons, Harry N. Baetjer III of Unionville, Pa., and George Hook Baetjer of Lake Oswego, Ore.; a daughter, Katharine Bruce Baetjer of Brooklandville; five grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com