Donald E. Lee, a retired postal manager who was a longtime active and influential member of the New Shiloh Baptist Church where he was a deacon and business consultant, died in his sleep July 6 at his Pikesville home. He was 85.
“Lee’s many strengths as a lay person spanned two generations of my family and went back to my father who ordained him a deacon,” said the Rev. Dr. Harold A. Carter Jr., who succeeded his father as pastor of New Shiloh Baptist Church. “And along the way, he had so many roles in the church, as a teacher, mentor and leader of the young men’s ministry, and was very valuable in helping the church we have succeed.”
Jamelia M. Ward, who is the executive assistant at New Shiloh, has worked closely and been a friend of Mr. Lee’s for two decades.
“He was absolutely a man of integrity, dedicated, and committed, which are the most rare values in modern society,” Ms. Ward said. “He was very giving and interested in grooming the next generation of young people to be leaders. He was civic minded and wanted to share his wisdom and give young people the opportunity to develop as leaders.”
Donald Edward Lee, son of Dorothea Lee, was born in Baltimore and raised on East Eden Street. He attended city public schools where he completed accelerated courses and graduated in 1954 from Frederick Douglass High School.
He enlisted in the Army after high school and served as a noncommissioned officer and platoon leader while stationed in West Germany, Switzerland and Austria. He was selected for Officer Candidate School but declined, and was discharged in 1957.
Mr. Lee was also a graduate of the Cortez Peters Business School and attended Morgan State University.
He began working for the U.S. Postal Service in 1957 as a distribution clerk, eventually rising to become a midlevel manager, which required him to travel to other post offices throughout the nation, and earned him many awards for his work.
At the time of his 1991 retirement, he had been working at the main post office on East Fayette Street.
The centerpiece of Mr. Lee’s life was New Shiloh Baptist Church, which he joined in 1965 when he was baptized by the late Rev. Dr. Harold A. Carter Sr., who in 1983 ordained him a deacon in the church.
For more than five decades, Mr. Lee, who was devoted to studying the word of God, family members said, dedicated himself to his church, members and administration.
Of his many duties, he was the leader of the Baptist Evening Fellowship, sang with the men’s choir, taught Saturday church school and served as a member of New Shiloh’s executive board, officially representing the church in civic and community affairs.
For more than 25 years, Mr. Lee served as the church’s business consultant, and for many years he was vice chair of the Deacon’s Ministry before being appointed chairperson of the Diaconate in 2008.
“He took over that role quite seamlessly,” the Rev. Dr. Carter said.
“I knew him growing up because I was raised at New Shiloh and I was the radio engineer for our broadcast on WBAL,” he recalled. “He was the go-to person when it came time to set up the equipment. I was a teenager then and he always helped me set up on a weekly basis, and I trained his son to succeed me when I went to college, so, the Carter-Lee family has been just that across the years.”
In his role as a business consultant, Mr. Lee’s responsibilities were serious.
“He was our CEO manager and our CPA when it came to money and he did a very good job,” the Rev. Dr. Carter said. “He did monthly reports and this wasn’t an easy job when it came to selecting the right contractor.”
“He was the person who dealt with our many vendors,” Ms. Ward said.
“He was a very special person, there’s no doubt about that,” said the Rev. Dr. Carter, who said Mr. Lee always brought a pen and pad to services.
“Lee was a very inquisitive person and he’d come to services and take notes. I don’t know what he did with them, but I guess they were for his own personal edification and he liked sharing what he heard from my sermons with others,” he said. “He was a person who always wanted to know more. You know, it’s an old cliché, but true, the more your learn, the more you want to know. That was him.”
Rev. Dr. Carter described Mr. Lee as being a very “spiritual person and faithful to the end.”
When word of Mr. Lee’s death became known, the Shiloh pastor’s phone began ringing.
“Since his passing, pastors who came out of New Shiloh have called me to express their condolences. They were reaching out to me about the loss of Lee,” the Rev. Dr. Carter said.
Mr. Lee also traveled extensively for “personal enrichment, study, and Christian service,” according to a biographical profile submitted by his family. He traveled to East Africa, North Africa, Israel, Egypt, Italy, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands and Canada.
In 2003, he married the former Christine Patterson, a federal government worker, and he and his wife enjoyed traveling to Spain, Portugal, Hawaii and the Caribbean.
He was an accomplished photographer and an inveterate fisherman.
His first wife, Leila Lee, a city public schools teacher he married in 1961, died in 2001.
Services were held Friday at his church.
In addition to his wife of 18 years, Mr. Lee is survived by a son, Carlton Eric Lee of Ashburn, Virginia; a daughter, Adrienne Kristi Lee of Catonsville; a brother, Arthur Lee of Baltimore; and four grandchildren.