Psychologist Mary Lee Rowe, 67, worked with the mentally and physically disabled
Mary Lee Rowe, a psychologist in Massachusetts agencies who worked with individuals with mental and physical disabilities, died Sept. 2 in Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News, Va., of complications of chronic fatigue syndrome.
She was 67 and lived in Gloucester Point, Va.
Ms. Rowe, who spent most of her career in Greater Boston, provided a voice for her clients when that was not easy to do, said her husband, Eric Rosenfeld.
“Mary always advocated for the human rights of her clients,’’ her husband said. “She always advocated for using positive reward whenever possible. It set her apart from most of the folks around her. It’s who she was.’’
Ms. Rowe worked at Hogan Regional Center in Danvers from 1972 through 1980, when she began working at North Shore Children’s Hospital in Salem. She transferred to John T. Berry Rehabilitation Center in North Reading in the early 1980s and to Wrentham State School in 1984.
Declining health prompted her to retire in 1989.
In 2000, Ms. Rowe returned to the area of Virginia where she grew up and lived in retirement in Gloucester Point.
Sheila Frankel of Boston, a co-worker and good friend, said Ms. Rowe’s techniques were advanced for the time.
“She was in the forefront of more positive strategies for working with our clients,’’ Frankel said.
She also recalled how Ms. Rowe’s clients appreciated her calm nature.
“She brought kindness to her work every step of the way,’’ Frankel said. “She’s a very special person.’’
Ms. Rowe was born and raised in Gloucester Point, Va., and graduated from Gloucester High School in 1962.
While she was growing up, her father taught her to navigate boats on Chesapeake Bay. She also developed a lifelong love of riding horses.
Her family’s home was considered part of the community’s historic heritage. Ms. Rowe, who was a member of the Augustine Warner Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, researched her family’s genealogy and stories as a way to keep the past alive.
She briefly attended Longwood College in Farmville, Va., before transferring to Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Va., where she received a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1966.
She moved to Boston to pursue a master’s in psychology education and graduated from Boston University in 1971. At about that time, she met Rosenfeld.
Passionate about water sports, they went on vacation twice a year to scuba dive, swim, and fish.
One of their favorite places to visit was Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands, and though they visited the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia only once, it was one of the most spectacular sights they had ever seen, her husband said.
The two enjoyed hosting gatherings. “When we threw parties, everyone we invited would come,’’ he said.
Ms. Rowe also enjoyed playing the piano and photographed everything from underwater excursions while scuba diving to family gatherings. She pursued her interests avidly and advised friends to do the same, her husband said.
“Someone asked me recently, ‘If she could tell people one thing now, what would it be?’ I said, ‘If there’s something you really want to do, do it now, because you don’t know what tomorrow brings,’ ’’ he said. “And that’s really how she lived her life.’’
In addition to her husband, Ms. Rowe leaves a sister, Melissa Sutton of Summerville, S.C.
A service has been held.
“So many people came up to me and said that she always had a smile on her face,’’ her husband said.
“In spite of her health problems, she was always positive and happy around people.’’
Amanda Cedrone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.