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John W. Rietz, architect known for designing medical facilities, dies

John W. Rietz, architect known for designing medical facilities, dies
John Rietz was an architect who in retirement used is architectural expertise on missions to Honduras to build homes and other facilities. He died last month at age 73. (Handout)

John W. Rietz, a retired architect known for designing medical facilites and for his work with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, died April 17 from complications of pulmonary fibrosis at his Hunt Valley home. He was 73.

“He was a character, passionate about his work, deeply loyal to his friends and incredibly creative, and wanted to help bring tremendous design and true functionality to his work,” said Susan B. Ward, vice president of operations at the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center.

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“He was an integral part of our organization,” said Jonathan V. Wilson, executive director of the Maryland chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. “He had passion and drive to support blood cancer patients. He was very selfless.”

John William Rietz was born in Pittsburgh and raised in Steubenville, Ohio. He was the son of John Jacob Rietz, an architect, and Dorothy Louise Earnell, a civic activist and poet.

He was a 1962 graduate of Steubenville High School. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in 1968 in architecture from Kent State University, where he was a member of the ROTC.

Commissioned as a lieutenant in the Army in 1968, he served at Aberdeen Proving Ground and Fort Carson, Colo. From 1969 until 1970, when he was discharged, he was stationed near the Korean Demilitarized Zone. His decorations included the National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and the Army Commendation Medal.

After leaving the service, Mr. Rietz returned to Steubenville and began working on his father’s architectural firm. After his father’s death, he and his brother, David, formed Rietz and Rietz Architects, with offices in Steubenville, Pttsburgh and Philadelphia.

Their commissions in Steubenville included Jefferson Technical College, now Gateway Community College, Jefferson County’s Developmental Disabilities Sheltered Workshop and Group Homes, the American Legion, the Salvation Army and the YWCA.

Mr. Rietz also worked on historical restorations including the Emlen Physick Estate in Cape May, N.J., which had been designed by the noted Philadelphia architect Frank Furness in 1879. The 18-room mansion is also home to the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities, and is operated as an historic house and museum.

Mr. Rietz and his wife, the former Judith Johnson, moved to Baltimore in 1986 when he took a job at Beck, Powell & Parsons. He later worked at Hord Coplan Macht Inc. in Baltimore and Charles Goodman & Associates in Annapolis.

During his more than four-decade career, he concentrated on medical offices, hospitals, emergency rooms, laboratories and educational facilites.

Examples of his work can be found at EA Laboratories, The National Institutes of Health, Georgetown Medical Center, Walter Reed Hospital, University of Maryland at Shady Grove, Anne Arundel Medical Center, Tate Cancer Center at the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center and the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, among others.

For the past 12 years, Mr. Rietz had worked for Cannon Design in Baltimore as a managing partner.

“A highlight of John’s career was his firm’s participation in the design of the Olympic speed skating facility at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010,” said his wife of 45 years, a retired first-grade teacher for Baltimore County public schools.

Tae Jung, an architect who worked at Cannon Design for a decade, recalled Mr. Rietz as “my mentor at Cannon. I learned a great deal from him.”

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“He had a wonderful sense of aesthetics. He always appreciated great designs and had a meticulous eye,” said Mr. Jung, who now works for NIKA Solutions, a Rockville architecture firm. “He was very good at coordinating and being a leader. He was focused on problem solving.”

Mr. Rietz participated in summer workshops at the Harvard School of Design, and served on the advisory board of the Kent State University College of Architecture and Environmental Design.

He retired in 2012.

At the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, he served as a board member and helped establish the Leukemia Cup Regattas to support research on the disease.

The first Leukemia Cup Regatta in Maryland raised $30,000, and led to establishment of a national regatta. Today, Leukemia Cup Regattas are held at 45 yacht clubs across the nation. Since their inception in 1993, the events have raised $65 million for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to advance new treatments and save lives.

Mr. Wilson said this year’s regatta in Annapolis in June will be dedicated to Mr. Rietz.

“He was one of those quiet professionals who came in and evaluated how he could help,” Mr. Wilson said. “He opened his arms and heart to those around him, and he had shoulders they could lean on.”

Mr. Rietz continued to serve as an advisory board member of the Maryland chapter until his death. In 2016, in recognition of his work with the society, he was presented the Sarah McMahon Courage Award.

He was also an active member for more than 30 years of Towson Presbyterian Church. He served as a trustee, moderator of deacons, building committee member and coordinator of the church’s annual Strawberry Festival. Mr. Rietz also served on the advisory board of High Peake House, a Towson home for adults with developmental disabilities.

Mr. Rietz was involved with the Baltimore-based Habitat for Humanity, and also traveled with fellow church members on nine missions to Honduras with Heifer International and the Presbytery of Baltimore to build homes and other facilities.

“John felt his trips to Honduras defined him, using his architectural skills for the Lord,” said a cousin, Kitty Stofsick of Cayuga Falls, Ohio.

For more than 60 years, he enjoyed spending vacations at his family’s home in Chautauqua, N.Y., where he sailed on the lake and attended lectures, the symphony, theater and Sunday and weekday religious services.

He also liked spending time at Sanibel, Fla., where he and his wife and daughter became amateur conchologists, studying mollusk shells.

Mr. Rietz and his Ohio cousins met annually for 26 years in locations such as New York, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Colorado and Wales to celebrate their Welsh heritage. A highlight included a reunion in Wales, where more than 20 of the cousins sang in their grandmother’s church in Merthyr Tydfil, north of Cardiff.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. June 9 at his church, 400 W. Chesapeake Ave.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughter, Rachel H. Rietz of Hunt Valley; a grandson; and many nieces and nephews.

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