Florence H. Deitz, helped found hospital

Florence H. Deitz, a Randallstown community activist who was a founder in the 1960s of the old Baltimore County General Hospital, which later became Northwest Hospital, died Monday of cancer at the Fairhaven retirement community. She was 91.

"Florence was a truly classic woman. She was gracious and exceptionally talented," said Gene Friedman, who was chairman in 1968 of the Baltimore County General Hospital Foundation.

"She was always well-dressed, available to talk, and spoke beautifully," said Mr. Friedman. "Once she committed, she absolutely did everything. No task was too small or too insignificant."

The daughter of farmers Seth Holbrook and Zenobia Marshall Holbrook, the former Florence Holbrook was born at home in the small Baltimore County farming community of Holbrook, which had been founded by her ancestors.

Raised in Holbrook on her family's farm, she was a 1940 graduate of Catonsville High School. A year later, she married Ralph E. Deitz, who became a prominent Randallstown attorney.

The couple settled in Randallstown, where Mrs. Deitz became a volunteer and active in numerous community organizations.

She joined the Randallstown Women's Club. While serving as the organization's president from 1960 to 1962, she led the fundraising effort that allowed the Randallstown Health Center to purchase medical equipment. The club also worked closely with the health center's public health nurse.

In the early 1960s, Mrs. Deitz became actively involved in the early planning stages of a hospital with several other community organizations.

It was established in 1962 as Liberty Court Rehabilitation Center. In 1964, it opened on Old Court Road as Baltimore County General Hospital with 93 beds.

"In the beginning, they did everything from serving meals to patients to laying concrete floors in the basement," said her son, James E. Deitz of Columbus, Ohio. "As part of a community group, they bused to Annapolis to get Blue Cross acceptance for the hospital."

Blue Cross initially refused to extend full coverage to subscribers who had been treated at the hospital. Mrs. Deitz and other community members were part of the lengthy battle that eventually required General Assembly action. In 1966, Blue Cross formally recognized the hospital.

"It was Florence's skill sets and resourcefulness. She was quiet, calm and determined. She convinced the legislature and finally Blue Cross said, 'We yield,'" said Mr. Friedman.

Mrs. Deitz was a founding member of the Baltimore County General Hospital Auxiliary in 1964, and served as its president from 1966 to 1968. From 1967 to 1968, she was the auxiliary's representative to the hospital's board of trustees.

As a member of the Hospital Emergency Lift Program — known as HELP — Mrs. Deitz and other volunteers went door to door in Randallstown seeking support for the fledgling hospital.

"They wrote letters to elected officials, gained support from neighbors and raised funds," said a 1989 publication that celebrated Baltimore County General Hospital's 25th anniversary. "This organization grew to become what is today the Baltimore County General Hospital Foundation, a very important member of the hospital family."

In addition to being a founding member of the foundation, Mrs. Deitz served as its treasurer in 1975.

In 1969, Mrs. Deitz was elected to the hospital board. She subsequently held the offices of secretary, second vice president and first vice president and served as president from 1989 to 1992. She remained on the board until 1997 and was an emeritus member until her death.

In 1993, Baltimore County General Hospital changed its name to Northwest Hospital, and today has grown into a 254-bed facility.

In addition to her work with the hospital, Mrs. Deitz was active in church work. She was a member and taught Sunday school for more than 50 years at First Presbyterian Church in Randallstown.

She then became a member of Mount Olive United Methodist Church in Randallstown, where she sang with its choir and assisted with numerous church projects, including furnishing new choir gowns for choir members.

Mrs. Deitz retained her membership in Mount Paran Presbyterian Church, where she was raised and married.

Her husband died in 1990, and in 2003 she moved to the Sykesville retirement community, where she volunteered in its health center and visited patients several times a week. She helped with Fairhaven's annual furniture sale and read announcements for the day's activities on the in-house TV channel.

"She had no interest in far-away places. Her world was Rockdale, Randallstown, Harrisonville and Holbrook. She was involved in every aspect of Randallstown," her son said.

"Her interests were family, friends and community, and she did much for all of them," said Mr. Deitz. "She was farm girl tough on the inside ... and was a beautifully refined lady on the outside."

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Haight Funeral Home, 6416 Sykesville Road, Sykesville.

In addition to her son, Mrs. Deitz is survived by her daughter, Gail L. Deitz of Eldersburg; five grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.


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