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Kit Valentine, advocate for environment in Catonsville

Kit Valentine, an advocate for the environment who served as president and vice-president of the Patapsco Heritage Greenway, died Sept. 15 of pancreatic cancer. He was 73.

Valentine spent the last 25 years of his life trying to give back to the community by helping others, said his son, Mark Valentine.

"He was a man whose character and personal integrity were two of his highest values," Mark Valentine said. "He was a firm believer in leaving the world a better place than the way you find it."

Kit Valentine spent 25 years in the Army as an artilleryman and environmental engineer. He served two tours in Vietnam and retired as a lieutenant colonel.

He taught ninth grade for one year in a pilot program at St. Timothy's Church in 1989.

Described by friends and family as a "true outdoorsman", Valentine enjoyed hiking, hunting and fishing.

A friend of 10 years, Ed Caffyn said the two shared a love of the outdoors.

"He was a mentor of mine and a great friend. He was a very optimistic person who devoted all of his time to other people," Caffyn said.

Valentine was a Boy Scout and earned the organization's highest rank of Eagle Scout by building a trail in the Patapsco Valley State Park.

"The Scouts and church had the largest influence on his life," Mark Valentine said of his father, a member of Church of the Resurrection in Ellicott City.

In 1941, Valentine was born to parents George and Helen Valentine in Cincinnati, Ohio.

He met his future wife, Becky, while a student at Catonsville High School at the age of 15.

"He gave me a music box on my 15th birthday," said Becky Valentine.

The couple were married at St. Timothy's Church not long after.

Becky Valentine said her high school sweetheart, "definitely was a man of integrity and always had a smile."

Valentine earned a bachelor's degree in forest management from the University of Montana.

After retiring from the military, Valentine began working with the Patapsco Heritage Greenway, a nonprofit that aims to preserve areas of the Patapsco Valley between Daniels and Elkridge, in 1992. He recently served as vice president of the group and also served as president from 2002 to 2012.

He was an honorary board member of Catonsville Rails to Trails (CRTT), a group that has worked to convert abandoned trolley lines in Catonsville into hiking and biking paths.

"He knew that in some ways he couldn't leave a lot of financial gifts behind, but he could leave the environment a better place for future generations," Mark Valentine said.

CRTT named the portion of the Catonsville Short Line Trail near Maiden Choice Lane the "Kit Valentine Trail" at a dedication ceremony Aug. 23. During that event, representatives from Patapsco Heritage Greenway, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, (DNR), Maryland Park Service and Baltimore and Howard County Councils delivered tributes to him for his service to the community, according to the organization's website.

The ceremony was held to honor Valentine, who knew his days were numbered due to a year-long battle with cancer, said Maureen Sweeney Smith, 59, who has known Valentine since 1999 through CRTT.

"It really meant a lot to him," Becky Valentine said.

Sweeney Smith said she'll miss walking with Valentine on the trails that he worked so hard to establish and maintain.

"Kit was a calm, kind, leader and just a platinum person. He was head and shoulders above everyone," Sweeney Smith said. ""I'll miss working side-by-side with him and just shooting the breeze."

John Slater, president of the Patapsco Heritage Greenway, worked with Valentine for 17 years through the organization.

"He was an effective leader...He knew how to be patient and encourage people to come together," Slater said.

During his time with the group, Valentine was responsible for coordinating cleanup efforts, refining the organization's plan for establishing the Patapsco Valley as the 13th certified Maryland Heritage Area and establishing a stream monitoring program.

Betsy McMillion, director of the organization, worked closely with Valentine over the years.

"I knew him better than probably anyone," McMillion said.

"You are the best boss and mentor I ever had the pleasure to work with.  You taught me how important it is to always thank others and acknowledge and give credit where credit is due for their help and how this small gesture creates not only loyalty, but a reason to continue their good deeds," McMillion wrote in a letter to Valentine.

First District Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents Catonsville and has been a supporter of making the area more bikeable and walkable, said Valentine's death is a "huge loss for me, the community, and his family and friends."

"He was a giant of a man. He was a champion of cleaning up our streams and tributaries, trails and the environment," Quirk said.

A memorial service will be held at Crossroads Church of the Nazarene in Ellicott City on Saturday, Sept. 20 at 2 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Wounded Warrior Project and to the Patapsco Heritage Greenway Kit Valentine Intern Scholarship Fund.

In addition to his wife, Valentine is survived by his daughter, Ruth Valentine and children, Lauren and Meaghan Foley; daughter Kelly Valentine and children, Austin and Alex Clark; son Keith Valentine, wife Kathy and children, Natalie, Nathaniel and Matthew; son Mark and wife Bekah and children, Michaela, Jenna and Silas; siblings Michael Valentine, Holly Sherman and Jan Valentine; nieces and nephews.

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