Sandra Butzow, a retired Johns Hopkins occupational art therapist and travel enthusiast, dies

Sandra Watson Butzow, a retired Johns Hopkins occupational art therapist, died of heart disease June 9 at Gilchrist Hospice Towson. She was 89 and lived in the Broadmead Retirement Community in Cockeysville.

Born in Baltimore, she was the daughter of a Russian baroness, Carmen Lassotovitch, and Xavier Joseph Watson, a Baltimore Sun reporter who became a State Road Commission engineer.


After living in Havre de Grace, she and her family settled in an apartment complex owned by her family in the 3700 block of Greenmount Avenue.

She was a 1951 graduate of Notre Dame Preparatory School and earned a bachelor’s degree at Notre Dame of Maryland University. She also had a master’s degree in occupational therapy from Tufts University.


In a 2006 Sun article, Mrs. Butzow recalled a visit to the home of Regina Soria, a professor of Italian at Notre Dame.

“It was the early 1950s, and that trip to Dr. Soria’s home was the first time I had ever tasted lasagna,” said Mrs. Butzow, who also recalled how her former professor asked if she been to the symphony or Baltimore’s museums.

She joined the Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic as an occupational art therapist. She taught painting, watercolor, photography, clay sculpture, collage and work with paper.

“She taught anything that would appeal to the patient,” said her sister, Cinta Porter.

She met her future husband, Dr. James J. Butzow, a National Institutes of Health biochemist, through her sister. She and her husband were members of St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church in downtown Baltimore.

Mrs. Butzow also studied with Baltimore artist Joan Erbe at classes at the Edward A. Myerberg Senior Center in Northwest Baltimore. The two were friends and Ms. Erbe once advised Mrs. Butrow not to paint wide mouths on her portrait subjects as the depiction could be unflattering.

“My sister was a distinguished artist and is renowned in Baltimore for her exquisite works in water color and oil,” her sister said. “Her forte was portraiture and people are fortunate to have her paintings. She was passionate about introducing children to the wonders of art.”

Mrs. Butzow was adventurous and an enthusiastic traveler. She served as a Catholic missionary in the Bahamas.

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Because she was fluent in Italian and other languages, she assisted clergy at the Second Vatican Council in Rome during the 1960s.

Mrs. Butzow accompanied her nephews, Alex and Tony Porter, around the world.

“She was almost like a grandmother to me,” said Anthony “Tony” Porter. “She was a bit older than my mother and she herself had no children. She was warm, funny and creative. She was always taking me and my brother to museums and encouraged us to soak up culture. Locally, she favored the Walters and the Baltimore Museum of Art.”

He also said “She was adventurous. She spoke Italian and liked to visit new places. She was never afraid of picking up a new language as she traveled to France, Russia, Ireland and Italy.”

Mrs. Butzow lived for many years on Walnutwood Circle in Charlesbrooke. She often hosted international students from Notre Dame University of Maryland on weekends.

A funeral Mass was held Wednesday at the Carmelite Monastery in Baltimore County.


Survivors include her sisters, Jacqueline Charrier of Cockeysville and Cinta Porter of Carrolltown, Pennsylvania; and nine nieces and nephews. Her husband of 37 years died in 2017.