Joan J. Huber, a vice president of Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc. who also served as a trustee of the city's Fire and Police Employees' Retirement System, died of undetermined causes Saturday after being admitted to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The Inner Harbor resident was 62.
Joan J. Grodzicki was born in Baltimore, raised on Richardson Street in Locust Point and graduated from the Institute of Notre Dame in 1959.
Mrs. Huber's business acumen began as a young woman when she took over operation of her father-in-law's Locust Point tavern after his death.
"Even though she worked for a giant in the financial industry, she always remembered what it was like operating a small business and what the small businessman was facing. She never forgot their struggles," said Arthur Caple Jr., executive director of the Maryland Supplemental Retirement Agency.
After her marriage to Joseph E. Ries III ended in divorce and she had raised her children, Mrs. Huber returned to college and earned a bachelor's degree in business from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.
She worked as a secretary to the president of Chesapeake Life Insurance Co. for several years before becoming a vice president of Planned Equity in 1969. The company specialized in employee benefits and plan design.
In 1975, Mrs. Huber was named vice president of Public Employees Benefit Services Corp., a Maryland corporation that was formed to manage the first public deferred compensation plans in the nation. She remained with the company until its sale to Nationwide Life Insurance Co. in 1984.
Mrs. Huber then entered the brokerage business and worked for Smith Barney and Prudential Securities Inc., before joining Legg Mason as a vice president of investments and wealth management.
In 1989, Mrs. Huber was appointed as a trustee to Maryland's State Retirement and Pension System by then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer. Mrs. Huber served on the board until 2000 when she was appointed by Mayor Martin O'Malley to the Fire and Police Employees' Retirement System. The fund has assets of $2 billion and is responsible for 10,000 members.
Mrs. Huber was the antithesis of the conservative, buttoned-down stockbroker, preferring to wear well-tailored, brightly colored clothes and whimsical millinery.
"Joan was extraordinarily colorful, dynamic and a civic-minded individual," said Kyle P. Legg, president and chief investment officer of Legg Mason Capital Management Inc.
Others in the business community lauded her for her expertise and conscientious attention to pension matters.
"She was very capable, understood markets and tried to do what was best for the state of Maryland and the city of Baltimore. She worked hard in doing the right thing for those retirement plans," said Philip E. "Pete" Sachs, Legg Mason senior vice president.
"She was the epitome of what a business person should be. She knew the retirement business inside and out, and could talk to people from all different walks of life," Mr. Caple said.
Interested in women's issues, she was the first acting chairwoman of the Baltimore City Commission for Women and was a lecturer for the Women's Educational and Leadership Forum.
Mrs. Huber also lectured widely at area colleges and city- and state-sponsored conferences on public pension funds.
Mrs. Huber was a member of Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, where services were held yesterday.
Survivors include a son, Joseph E. Ries IV of Forest Hill; a daughter, Rene R. Langley of New Oxford, Pa.; a sister, Magdalene "Chee-Chee" Grodzicki of Baltimore; and four grandchildren. A brother, Anthony Grodzicki, died in 1991. Her marriage to Louis Huber ended in divorce.