Renee Buettner, a retired teacher who founded a neighborhood preschool, died of Alzheimer’s disease complications Tuesday at Stella Maris Hospice. The Northeast Baltimore resident was 70.
“Miss Renee, as she was known to so many in Northeast Baltimore, was an omnipresent force in the Arcadia-Lauraville-Mayfield area of the city,” said a friend and neighbor, Pat Muth. “She founded a preschool for neighbor children, coached every sport imaginable and was a de facto mom for myriad kids in the 1980s and 1990s.”
Born Maurine “Renee” Bulow in Washington and raised in Chevy Chase, she was the daughter of William Bulow, an attorney, and his wife, Evelyn. She was the granddaughter of North Dakota’s Sen. William Bulow, who served from 1931 to 1943 after serving as governor of the state. She attended Our Lady of Lourdes School and was a graduate of the Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School.
She played varsity field hockey and basketball at Georgetown Visitation during her four years there. She also played basketball for the University of Maryland for two years while she was a student at College Park..
“She said she had to practice in a broom closet off the men’s court,” said her daughter, Molly Buettner of Middletown, R.I.
She came to Baltimore when she transferred to Mount Saint Agnes College, where she earned a degree in early childhood education. She entered training as a Sister of Mercy and taught at St. Bernard School on Gorsuch Avenue in Waverly. She later received a master’s degree at what is now Loyola University Maryland.
While teaching in Waverly, she met her future husband, Frederick Gerard “Jerry” Buettner, who was then a St. Mary’s Seminary theology student. They married in 1974 after leaving their religious studies.
She joined the Baltimore City school system and initially taught special education students at the John Ruhrah, Cecil, Dr. Bernard Harris and Brehm’s Lane elementary schools.
“During the 1974 teachers’ strike, she went to her students’ homes and taught them,” said her husband.
In 1979 she and her husband moved to Tyndale Avenue in the Arcadia section.
She and her family joined St. Francis of Assisi parish and she coached Catholic Youth Organization soccer and basketball. She also ran the parish vacation Bible school. At the end of the 1980s she approached her pastor, Monsignor William Burke, about setting up a new school for young children.
The result was her Mayfield Christian Preschool, then housed in St. Matthew’s United Church of Christ on Norman Avenue.
She later went on to teach the first grade at St. Francis of Assisi School and retired in 2011.
“She was kind and hard-working for the benefit of children in the area. She was an advocate for the young girls and young women in the community. When she turned 70, there was a birthday Mass for her at St. Francis. It was standing room only. The joke was she drew more people than Christmas or Easter,” said Mr. Muth.
She and her husband were social justice advocates. For some years they made an annual trip to El Salvador and attended a 2055 Mass marking the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. She also belonged to a study group whose members read and discussed the work of Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, Christian mystic and social activist, among other writers.
“She was a humble and sweet person. She was spiritual and fun and a friend. She and her husband were devoted to each other,” said a neighbor, Michael Ricigliano, sports cartoonist for The Sun and Press Box.
Ms. Buettner found room in her home for two asylum seekers and assisted them as they gained citizenship.
Ms. Buettner remained an athlete. She and her daughter ran in the 2001 Baltimore Marathon.
“We were only planning on running to mile 8, which was at the base of our home street, Tyndale Avenue. Then we said, OK, let’s just run to Mercy High School, which was at mile 14,” said her daughter. “We met my dad there and said, ‘Well, we ran this far, we might as well finish it.’ And we did.”
She said they later ran the half-marathon or marathon relays almost every year until Ms. Buettner completed a half-marathon in 2015 — her last — and a 5K race in 2016.
“She ran despite having physical difficulties due to her Alzheimer’s,” her daughter said.
A memorial Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Jan. 26 at St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church, 3515 Harford Road. A church visitation will be held Jan. 25 from 7 to 9 p.m.