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Marianna I. Burt, lawyer

Abusive BehaviorColleges and UniversitiesJustice SystemTowson UniversityEaster

Marianna Inga Burt, an attorney who represented children, died of cardiovascular disease March 12 at Union Memorial Hospital. She was 80 and lived in the Tuscany-Canterbury section of North Baltimore.

Born Marianna Koenig in Hoganas, Sweden, she was the daughter of a chemist, Walter Koenig, and his wife, Elisabeth. She and her family moved to Germany in 1944 and lived in Stendal. She graduated from high school in what became East Germany during the Soviet occupation. Her family eventually left East Germany and relocated to West Germany.

"She was smuggled out in a car," said her daughter, Ariane Lyons of Sacramento, Calif.

She later earned a degree in nursing in England. She was fluent in Swedish, German, English and Russian.

Family members said she met Duane Van Schaack, an American serving in the Army's counterintelligence corps, while she worked as a translator in the U.S. Embassy in Bonn. They married in 1956 and relocated to Moscow, Idaho, in 1956. They later divorced.

She became a midwife and nurse in Idaho and later became a lab assistant at Washington State University, where she met her second husband, Gordon Burt, while he was getting his doctorate. They moved to Wheaton in 1968.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Morgan State University and a Master of Arts degree at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She received a degree at the Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C.

After moving to Baltimore nearly 30 years ago, she joined the firm of Foster, Moore and Hill and in 1987 became a partner in Montague, Doering and Burt. In 1989, she began to focus almost exclusively on juvenile law, delinquents and family law. She often spoke on the legal status of children in need of assistance.

"She was a brilliant attorney, always prepared in court," said Pat Brown, a master in the Baltimore City Juvenile Court. "She was a wonderful litigator, too. She knew the rules and she followed them. Integrity was her middle name. She could be intimidating, but she was also kind and generous."

From 1987 to 1991, she was a Baltimore City assistant public defender and represented children and parents in abuse and neglect cases. She was also the coordinator of the law and justice ministry of Lutheran Social Services of Maryland. During this time, she worked to establish a Neighborhood Advisory Board for the Hickey School.

"She did not shirk when it came to a really tough problem," said Sharon Rubenstein, a communications consultant who was formerly with Advocates for Children and Youth, one of the groups Ms. Burt had worked with. "She used her head and her heart in harmony."

Ms. Rubenstein recalled her colleague's "high standards," which she called "a fundamental part of who she was."

She also said Ms. Burt frequently worked a six-day week and got an early start in the morning and always worked late.

"She had a curious, inquisitive mind and had a real hunger to understand," she said. "She believed in the possibility of law bringing change and justice. She never stopped trying."

Ms. Burt also taught courses in juvenile justice at Towson University and at the Maryland House of Corrections in a program sponsored by then-Essex Community College.

"She was a person who lived in the present and she paid full attention to you when you were in her presence," said her daughter. "As a person, she was curious. She wanted to learn and she was able to change easily."

Friends recalled her deep, hearty laugh and sense of humor.

"She loved parties and entertaining people with stories about her life experiences. To hear her tell it, she had done everything and knew everybody. She was a Nordic Auntie Mame," said Dr. Gregory Lehne, her housemate for 25 years. "She especially loved all the holidays. She would decorate with seasonal items from a large collection of mementos she had made or acquired over many years, and make seasonal flower arrangements."

He said Ms. Burt had made many elaborately dyed Easter eggs.

"Christmas was her favorite holiday because she loved Advent, and giving and receiving gifts," Dr. Lehne said. "She would use real candles on the Christmas tree, as was done in her youth in Sweden. She claimed she had been very domestic, cooking, canning and making clothing. She would show off the needlework tablecloths she had made while she was raising her family in Idaho."

As her legal work expanded over the past decades, she dropped her domestic activities to the point that she sent her bed sheets to be professionally ironed and lightly starched.

"She was always neat and clean," said Dr. Lehne.

A memorial celebration will be held at 2 p.m. April 6 at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, 1900 St. Paul St.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include two brothers, Otto-Heinrich Koenig of Oberkotzau and Dr. Gert Koenig of Dusseldorf, both in Germany. A son, Roy Burt, an Army staff sergeant, died in 1994. Her marriage to Dr. Burt ended in divorce.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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