Mabel Anne Hutchinson Lee, the first woman president of the Towson Unitarian Universalist Church and a key figure in Illinois Representative John Anderson’s independent-party presidential run in 1980, died Nov. 5 following a recurrence of ovarian cancer. She was 83.
“She never ran for anything, but the organizations she belonged to were always interested in politics, and I think she really took to that,” said her husband of 62 years, Charles Henry Lee, a civil engineer who preceded her as president of the Towson church. “She enjoyed voting and she enjoyed working in politics, but I don’t think she would have enjoyed having a position like County Council or anything.”
Born in Salem, Mass., Mabel Anne Hutchinson, who went by the name Anne, was educated at public schools in nearby Marblehead, according to an account of her life she prepared. She graduated from Cornell University in 1957, a year after marrying Mr. Lee, who graduated from Cornell Civil Engineering School the same year. They moved to Maryland in 1958, spending six months at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Save for about a year spent in Mexico and some time living near the Mount Pleasant golf course, the Lees lived most of their lives in Timonium, where they raised three sons. Mr. and Mrs. Lee had spent the past 12 years living at the Broadmead retirement community.
Mrs. Lee was awarded a master’s degree in special education from Loyola College (now Loyola University Maryland), and spent three years teaching at the Children’s Guild in Baltimore and Our Lady Queen of Angels in Catonsville. She also took courses in fundraising at Goucher College, and spent 16 years applying those skills, mostly through grant writing. Her work brought in more than $86,000 to the Assistance Center of Towson Churches, money that was used to replace their headquarters and enhance their programs.
From 1969-71, Mrs. Lee was the first female president of the Towson Unitarian Universalist Church; in that, she was following in the footsteps of her husband, who had served as third president of the church, founded in 1960.
“She was very proud of that,” said the Rev. Clare L. Petersberger, the church’s current minister. “At the end of her life, she was very glad that they had recognized her as a leader.”
When the church celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2010, Mrs. Lee proved an invaluable and enthusiastic chronicler of the church’s history. “She was our collective memory,” Ms. Petersberger said.
Mrs. Lee was an inveterate and talented storyteller, Ms. Petersberger said. Among her favorites: Once, as a way to raise funds for the Community Assistance Network (CAN), organizers offered rides in hot-air balloons. Among those who went aloft was Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, who leaned over the edge at one point and shouted at a young boy below, “Where are we?” Trying to be helpful, the boy shouted back, “America.”
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“She could really tell a story,” Ms. Petersberger remembered. “You would just be on the edge of your seat, waiting for the punchline.”
Mrs. Lee was also active in several political campaigns. In 1974, with the League of Women Voters, she ran the successful campaign to have members of the Baltimore County Council elected by district; previously, they all ran county-wide.
In addition, Mrs. Lee served two terms on the county’s Republican Central Committee.
In 1980, after Ronald Reagan had defeated Mr. Anderson for the Republican presidential nod, Mrs. Lee helped spearhead the Illinois congressman’s presidential bid as the candidate of what became known as the National Unity Party. She co-chaired the party’s convention and was elected secretary-treasurer.
Writing in the third person, Mrs. Lee said of her work with Mr. Anderson’s long-shot candidacy, “The most money they ever had was $5,000. When it became obvious that despite all their efforts they were not going to be a force for change, Congressman Anderson told her, ‘Once bills are paid, choose which nonprofit gets any leftover money.’ She chose Vote Smart, which published materials showing both sides of the issues.”
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Lee is survived by her three sons, David Richard Lee, of Altoona, Pa., John Abbott Lee, of Nashville, Tenn., and Charles Robert Lee, of Lutherville. She is also survived by a sister, Beth Kingsley Hawkins, of Sedona, Ariz., four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
A memorial service is set for 2 p.m. Nov. 25 at the Towson Unitarian Universalist Church, 1710 Dulaney Valley Road. memorial contributions may be made to the Assistance Center of Towson Churches.