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Jerome R. Garitee, longtime college history professor and author of a book on privateering, dies

Jerome R. Garitee lectured on history at Fort McHenry.
Jerome R. Garitee lectured on history at Fort McHenry.

Jerome R. Garitee, a longtime Community College of Baltimore County Essex history professor and author of a book on War of 1812 privateers, died Sept. 19 of undetermined causes at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. The Towson resident was 91.

Jerome Randolph Garitee, son of Edward Garitee, a Baltimore City civil engineer, and his wife, Lila Mae Garitee, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised in Hamilton. After the death of his mother in 1936, Professor Garitee and his younger brother, Charles, were placed by their father in St. Vincent’s Orphanage.

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Professor Garitee was a cousin of the Marquis de Lafayette, and, family members said, this may have accounted for his interest in history from an early age.

As a young man, he worked as head usher at the Lyric Opera House and was fond of saying he had escorted such luminaries as Eleanor Roosevelt, socialite Gloria Vanderbilt and actress Lucille Ball to their seats.

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A 1947 graduate of Polytechnic Institute, he was drafted into the Army in 1951 and stationed in Germany after graduating from the Chemical, Biological and Radiological Warfare School.

After being discharged in 1953 with the rank of private, he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1956 from what is now Towson University, a master’s degree in education from the Johns Hopkins University in 1959 and a second master’s degree in 1963 from American University, from which he obtained his doctorate in history in 1973.

He began his teaching career at North Point Junior High School and later joined the faculty of Kenwood High School. In 1965, he began teaching at what was then Essex Community College.

“We were both on the faculty at Essex and also taught at the college’s three other campuses,” said Neal A. Brooks, who was also a professor of history.

“As an instructor, he had just an amazing connection with the students and had an extraordinary sense of humor which came through continually. Also, he was always interested in what they were doing,” recalled Professor Brooks. “He enjoyed working with the two-year students and if a student wanted to go on to a four-year program, he always made sure that was an option for them.”

Professor Garitee brought his own lifetime experiences to the classroom.

“He was remarkable in the classroom and brought in experiences from his Army days and the depth of his reading,” Professor Brooks said. “He expected a lot from his students as he expected from himself. He was also a faculty leader.”

Professor Garitee retired in 1991.

His doctoral thesis became the basis for his book, “The Republic’s Private Navy: The American Privateering Business as Practiced by Baltimore During the War of 1812,” published in 1977 by the Mystic Seaport Press.

His book is often referenced in other scholarly works concerning Baltimore’s privateering activities at the time of the War of 1812, and is “considered the gold standard for research on the topic,” family members said.

Professor Garitee also worked for several summers for the National Park Service at Fort McHenry, where he lectured on the history of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the significance the fort played during the War of 1812.

For his work, he received recognition from the Maryland Historical Society in 2014 and from the Baltimore City Historical Society, which honored him in 2015 with a medal and at the same ceremony presented him with a replica 1812 U.S. flag for his work at Fort McHenry.

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He enjoyed attending the theater and ballet, and listening to classical music.

Professor Garitee’s wife of 43 years, the former Maria Lee Zaetz, a Baltimore County public schools guidance counselor, died in 1994.

Services were held Sept. 23 at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium.

He is survived by three daughters, Lynn Laubach of Cockeysville, Andrea Batton of Phoenix in Baltimore County, and Meridith Mueleib of Southport, New York; nine grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

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