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Mary T. McMullen, special education teacher

She dedicated her life to helping others, was strong supporter of high school athletics

By Jill Rosen, The Baltimore Sun

6:07 PM EDT, August 19, 2012

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Mary T. McMullen, a Millersville special education teacher and athletics booster, died Friday at University of Maryland Medical Center of scleroderma after a lengthy illness. She was 64.

Mary Wissel was born March 14, 1948, in Baltimore and raised in Catonsville. She attended Seton High School in Baltimore, where she played on the girls basketball team — including a few games at the Baltimore Civic Center, where she was thrilled to play on the same court as her favorite professional team, the Baltimore Bullets. She graduated in 1966.

From 1967 to 1973, she worked at T. Rowe Priceas an account executive. Despite success at the firm, she left to attend Catonsville Community College, then the University of Maryland, where she earned a degree in therapeutic recreation.

"She walked away from an extremely lucrative position because she just knew it wasn't her mission," said Tim McMullen, her husband of 43 years. "'What can I do to help my fellow person' is how she lived her life. She never talked about it. She never wanted any recognition."

The couple met at the senior prom — they were each there with someone else. When Mr. McMullen saw her soon after at a friend's home, he said, "I somehow drove her home, and we were off to the races." He proposed as soon as he was released from the Army Reserve, when they were both 19, after just two months of courtship. They married in 1968.

At Ocean Pines, one of Mrs. McMullen's favorite summer vacation spots, she worked as recreation director for the summer camp program, which she co-founded.

In the early 1980s, she worked as an administrator at the Maryland School for the Deaf but resigned after five years to stay at home with her children. During this time, she taught religious school and was a scout leader for both the girls and boys troops.

She returned to teaching in 1995, first as a special education teacher at Ruth Parker Eason School in Millersville, then at Severna Park High School.

"She gave so much time to individuals who just needed the extra help," said Denise Watts, who taught with Mrs. McMullen at Ruth Parker Eason. "She'd stay after class, she'd work during planning time. She gave those students everything they needed to be successful in school."

Mrs. McMullen was an active person who married a high school coach and athletic director and raised a family of athletes. In her younger years, she enjoyed playing basketball, bicycle riding, running the Annapolis 10-Miler and cheering — colorfully — at Colts and Bullets games.

Mr. McMullen, who coached baseball and football at Brooklyn Park High School and was the athletic director at Broadneck High School in Annapolis, said "hundreds" of unruly students might have lost their spot on the team if not for his wife's compassionate intervention.

"I'd come home ready to throw someone off the team, and she'd say, 'Give them a second chance,'" he said. "And they always turned out to be good kids, good athletes and good people."

As co-president of the Old Mill High School Boosters Club, where all three of her children attended and played sports, she led a fundraising drive to build a new field house.

"We raised a quarter-million dollars, and she was a big part of helping us do that," said Bruce Lawton, Old Mill's former athletic director. "She realized the value that athletics can contribute to a community and to a school, and she was giving back."

Mrs. McMullen, Lawton said, was always at the games, rooting for her children and working the concession stand. She kept at it even after her youngest graduated.

Mrs. McMullen enjoyed spending time with her children and extended family. Paul McMullen, her brother-in-law, said there was a major family event planned for each of the four seasons — the St. Patrick's Dayouting at Patapsco Valley State Park, the summertime family reunion at Ocean Pines, a Halloween gathering when the children were little and Christmas.

"For Christmas, we'd rotate among the family homes, and whenever it was at Tim and Mary's, it was a joyous celebration," he said. "She was one of the people who helped organize and made sure there was enough food, drink and fellowship for all."

She relished seeing the world with her family, attending the 1976 Montreal Olympics, visiting Ireland, Italy and England, and going on a trip to Barcelona in 2009 with the Goucher College soccer team to watch her sons play Spanish teams.

Most recently, she spent time this summer in Maine's Acadia National Park with the family. "Here was a lady who has trouble walking. We had to drive because she was on oxygen and couldn't fly. There's no way she should have made the trip," her husband said. "But she knew what it meant for the family. And she had a chance to say goodbye to the ocean."

She is survived by her husband, Timothy M. McMullen; children Erin K. McMullen of Catonsville, Timothy P. McMullen of Owings Mills and Edward H. McMullen of Baltimore; and her sister Veronica Walker of Catonsville.

Visitation will be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday at Gonce Funeral Home, 4001 Ritchie Highway in Brooklyn. A funeral Mass will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday at St. Rose of Lima Church, 3803 Fourth St. in Brooklyn.

jill.rosen@baltsun.com

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