Maarja Schuetz Gandy
January 19, 1947 – August 31, 2023
Maarja Schuetz Gandy died on August 31, 2023 at Washington Hospital in Washington, DC. She was 76.
Maarja was born on January 19, 1947 in a displaced persons camp in Germany, after her mother and grandparents fled Estonia at the beginning of the forty five year Soviet occupation of the Baltic countries. She arrived in the US at the age of three, and liked to recall the memory of standing on the bow of the ship with her grandmother as they approached New York. Though she had a difficult beginning, her life was marked by adventure, elegance, and generosity.
She grew up in Baltimore with parents Eha and Frank Schuetz and her Estonian grandparents, speaking both Estonian and German, until she started kindergarten and the family assimilated and grew. Maarja skipped the second grade, helped raise five younger siblings, studied oil painting in the tradition of Turner, buried herself in books, and according to her oldest friend Susan who spoke to Maarja the day she died, had “the most adventurous weekends.” She naturalized as a US citizen at age 18.
In 1959, Maarja was one of only two people in her region selected for the A Course at Western High School in Baltimore, Maryland. The oldest all-girls public high school in the nation, Western was rigorous in all subjects and antiracist, forbidding off campus lunch for anyone because many luncheonettes in the area would not allow Black students to enter. Maarja graduated in 1964 with straight As and was awarded a $500 scholarship for higher education.
A year later, when her mother was pregnant with the eighth child, and the Vietnam draft began, she married Melvin Hildebrand, her husband of 25 years and father of their one child. Maarja named her daughter, Kimberly, the most popular name in 1969, tired of always correcting people on how to spell and say Maarja. It’s maar- ya. The family lived in Fallston and Ellicott City, Maryland, Fairport, New York, and Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. In 1990, Maarja and Mel’s marriage ended, and she moved to inner city Philadelphia.
Maarja received her AA at Harford Community College and, later, in 1981, her BA in Information Sciences from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Education was top priority despite working, moving, and being a parent. Her daughter Kim was 11 when Maarja graduated from college. Maarja worked in healthcare and pharmaceuticals, as a secretary for a urologist, in a hematology lab (where she performed her own pregnancy test), on the first DRGs (diagnosis-related groups) at Rochester General Hospital, and in data administration, grant review, and IT for SmithKlein Beecham.
In 1995, Maarja married Leaming “Lee” Gandy. From 1995 to 1999, Maarja and Lee lived and worked in Mexico City, where she spayed and neutered stray cats and provided funding for local domestic workers to attend school. They retired in 1999 and moved briefly to Miami before settling in Lusby, Maryland, on a peninsula surrounded by water and loving neighbors, often cruising on their boat Queiro Más?. Maarja supported diverse causes and volunteered job-like hours for Habitat for Humanity and the SMILE Food Pantry. A skilled sailor, she joined the Solomons Island Yacht Club, where, in 2017 she was sworn in as Secretary. Maarja and Lee shared 30 years of marriage.
At 55, she beat breast cancer.
At 66, Maarja learned that her biological father was an American GI , George Coyne, who, according to her mother, “had the most beautiful blue eyes.” Although he died before this discovery, his children graciously welcomed Maarja and her family into their California fold.
At 73, she was issued her Estonian passport.
In 2017, in the smoking section of a Silversea cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Monte Carlo, Maarja met Nick Perrott, an Englishman and widower living in Spain. Until her death, they enjoyed an international relationship, living between Maryland and his home on the Costa del Sol.
Maarja is survived by daughter Kim Hildebrand Cardoso (Augusto) and their two children Stella and Otto of Oakland, CA; six Schuetz siblings, Greta (Donald) , Mark (Veronica), Frank (Debbie), Robert (Lisa), Eric (Julie), and Norman (Laura); four step children, Mary Cook (Doug), Valerie Eleneke (Paul), Jim Gandy (Michele), and Julia Gandy (Eddie); two Coyne siblings, Brion (Pamela) and Kevin (Deborah), her first husband Mel, her boyfriend Nick, and many nieces, nephews, step grand and great grandchildren, neighbors, and friends.
She was preceded in death by her brothers Carl Schuetz, Marty and Terry Coyne, and her second husband, Lee Gandy.
Maarja is best remembered for her pickled mushrooms, little dresses, dry martinis, unapologetic politics, tiny portions, elegant style, quick wit, generosity, and flip flops. She loved cats, live music, growing tomatoes, travel to six continents, and her squirrel friends on her back deck. She devoured three or more novels a week and could be counted on for editing any document and surely would have improved this obituary.
A celebration of her life will be held on September 9 at her home. In lieu of flowers, donations may be directed to organizations she supported:
SMILE Food Pantry smileinc.org
Planned Parenthood plannedparenthood.org
Calvert Marine Museum calvertmarinemuseum.com
Patuxent Habitat for Humanity patuxenthabitat.org
Saturday, September 9, 2023