Janet Virginia Garrity, who enrolled in college at age 47 and went on to earn a master's degree in social work, died of heart disease Tuesday at Brightview Assisted Living in Towson. She was 81 and lived in Salisbury.
Born Janet Virginia Green in Baltimore, she was raised on Chesley Avenue in Hamilton and attended Hamilton Elementary School, where she met her future husband, Robert J. Garrity. She was a 1950 Eastern High School graduate but did not pursue a plan to go to St. Mary's College because her father had recently died. As a young woman, she was a fashion model and was photographed for newspapers as she modeled for local retailers.
In 1951, she and Mr. Garrity married at Hamilton's Episcopal Church of the Messiah, where they both had been active. She raised a family, two sons and a daughter, and lived in Parkville and Hamilton. She became a Parkville Girl Scout leader.
When her youngest child was completing his high school education, she decided that she would return to school and earn the college degree she had postponed. She had dreams of becoming a social worker.
In 1979, when she was 47, she enrolled at Prince George's Community College, where she took a few courses before enrolling at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
"She waited for all of us to finish our schooling and then she went back," said her daughter, Debra V. McKenna of Baltimore. "She was hesitant at first because of her age, but she didn't have any problems."
Her son, Michael W. Garrity, a Northeast resident, remembered her first day in college. "She worried that she would be an outcast," he said. "My father and I dropped her off, and when we went back to pick her up, she was arm-in-arm with five other students. We asked her how come in the morning she was afraid. She said that was nothing. She had already made friends."
She graduated with a degree in psychology and immediately enrolled at the master's program at the Catholic University of America in Washington.
"The professors loved her," said her son, a business owner and consultant. "They would assign readings or a book, and she actually completed the work."
After she received her master's degree in social work, she worked in that field in Prince George's County and later in Worcester County. She worked with families and in foster care.
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Mrs. Garrity, a soprano, sang with the Sweet Adelines. She enjoyed sewing and made banners for her church. She also enjoyed camping and touring the U.S.
She and her husband lived in Salisbury and were members of Holy Spirit Episcopal Church.
"She was an outgoing person who was good to sit and talk with," said her rector, the Rev. Glenn Duffy. "The world would be a better place if there more people like her. The last time I saw her, I shook her hand. She said, 'That's not good enough. I need a hug and a kiss.' "
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the Church of the Messiah, 5801 Harford Road in Hamilton.
In addition to her husband of 62 years, son and daughter, she is survived by another son, Robert J. Garrity Jr. of Dallas; a brother, Robert Green of Northeast; six grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.