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Joanne Souris Deitz, former chief purchasing agent for Baltimore County, dies

Joanne Souris Deitz
Joanne Souris Deitz

Joanne Souris Deitz, who rose to become Baltimore County’s chief purchasing agent and was named the 1970 Towson Woman of the Year, died Feb. 5 at Mercy Ridge Retirement Community in Timonium. She was 90.

Born in Towson, she was the daughter of Areti and Christopher Souris, Greek immigrants from the island of Kythera. She assisted her mother, who ran Souris’ Saloon, a restaurant and tavern at York Road and Allegheny Avenue facing the Towson traffic circle, and was a 1946 graduate of Towson High School.

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“Mom was an excellent student and an excellent athlete,” said her daughter, Aritee “Tee” Bond of Glyndon. “She skipped two grades in school, and lettered in varsity field hockey, basketball and softball.”

As a young woman she became active at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, where she remained for the rest of her life.

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“Joanne was a faithful parishioner,” said Father Constantine Moralis, dean of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral. “She served in every capacity of the parish — on the council, youth organization and sang in the choir. She worked in missionary work for an orphanage in Guatemala.

“She touched so many souls and she enjoyed being a part of parish life, coming here, praying and being with her community.”

Her daughter said that as a young woman she faced challenges.

“Finding herself divorced, she raised three children, 1 to 5, by herself,” her daughter said. “She worked three jobs — a county worker, a part-timesecretary and worked the family business, including bartender and server. She had a quiet strength about her. She never complained.”

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Her mother, father and sisters assisted with her children.

“We lived upstairs over Souris’, which was perfect as it was within walking distance from our schools and Mom’s jobs,” her daughter said.

Mrs. Deitz found a clerical job in Baltimore County government and became a purchasing agent. She rose to chief purchasing agent and head buyer in the 1960s.

“She was the first female head buyer for Baltimore County,” her daughter said. “She seemed to know everybody in Towson."

“Mom had the personality and the people skills to get the right people together to get the job done,” her daughter said. “She had a way of making people feel comfortable and made them feel that they counted, that they were just as important as the next person.”

As a way of making inexpensive entertainment for her children, she put them in a car and started driving.

“Then we would all start singing songs like ‘Shine On Harvest Moon’ or ‘Good Morning Mr. Zip, Zip, Zip,’” her daughter said. “She would drive and sing until we all got tired, then we’d head home, straight to bed.“

While working she met her future husband, Baltimore County Fire Chief J. Austin Deitz.

“This is when Mom started seeing a better side of life. She and Austin starting dating and he introduced her to a life she never knew,” her daughter said. “He was a waterman and he was an outdoorsman.”

Her future husband taught her about the Chesapeake Bay, and took her and her children fishing on his boat.

In June 1972 she and the fire chief were married at the Cathedral of the Annunciation.

When her husband was called to a fire over three alarms, she handed out coffee and water to the firefighters.

Shortly after they married, she and her husband started clearing land on property her husband owned in Granite.

“Together they cleared over 150 trees. She rode a tractor and worked every weekend on the property. They worked on the property and planned for two years and finally moved into the house on Wrights Mill Road in April 1975,” her daughter said.

Her daughter recalled that the move to the country came with lifestyle changes.

“The first morning we woke up, Mom complained to me about all of the noise the birds made in the morning. It woke us both up,” her daughter said. “After living in Towson, right on York Road, the noise from cars, sirens, drunks walking home, a new sound of nature and birds woke us out of a sound sleep.”

Mrs. Deitz used the home for elaborate family gatherings and would host as many as 80 people at Easter.

She and her husband traveled to Greece to the island of Kythera, her family’s home. She taught her husband to say “one beer, please” in Greek.

Mrs. Deitz retired from Baltimore County after 31 years of service. She was named the Towsontown Business and Professional Women’s Woman of the Year for 1970, and was a past president of the Maryland Public Purchasing Association.

Her husband of 31 years died in 2003.

When Mr. Deitz retired from the fire department, she was presented with the “Chief’s Chief” fire helmet, a copy of the fire chief’s hat. That hat was placed in her coffin along with his badge.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include another daughter, Pamela Nopulos of Baltimore; a son, Christopher Poletis of Arbaz, Switzerland; two sisters, Sylvia “Tini” McLernon of Timonium and Evangeline “Van” Sakles of Timonium; 12 grandchildren; and numerous great-grandchildren.

In addition, she is survived by a stepson, Wayne Deitz of Granite, and a stepdaughter, Alma Dibble of Glen Rock, Pennsylvania.

A funeral was held Feb. 10 at the Annunciation Cathedral.

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