Joanna R. von Briesen

Mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive cre­ated cam­paigns pro­mot­ing home own­er­ship in city neigh­bor­hoods

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES - By Jac­ques Kelly jac­ques.kelly@balt­sun.com

Joanna R. von Briesen, a re­tired mar­ket­ing and pub­lic re­la­tions ex­ec­u­tive who cre­ated cam­paigns to pro­mote home own­er­ship in city neigh­bor­hoods, died of a brain dis­or­der Tues­day at the Gen­e­sis Mul­tiMed­i­cal fa­cil­ity in Tow­son.

She was 72 and had lived in Phoenix and the Vil­lage of Cross Keys.

Born Joanna Rap­tis, she was the daugh­ter of An­thony Rap­tis, a restau­ra­teur, florist and lay leader of the Greek Or­tho­dox Cathe­dral of the An­nun­ci­a­tion, and Maria Rap­tis.

Raised on Un­der­wood Road in the Rad­nor-Win­ston com­mu­nity, she at­tended Guil­ford Elementary School and was a 1961 grad­u­ate of Eastern High School.

When she was10, she vis­ited Greece with her fam­ily and briefly at­tended a Sparta school. Re­turn­ing to Bal­ti­more, she at­tended the old Bal­ti­more Ju­nior Col­lege and earned a di­ploma at Strayer Busi­ness Col­lege.

She was flu­ent in Greek and English and also spoke French and Span­ish.

“Be­tween her looks and her per­son­al­ity, she al­ways made an im­pres­sion,” said a daugh­ter, Maria von Briesen Hardi­son of Rockville. “She was very so­cial. She was a smart woman, and in our fam­ily, she fo­cused on so­cial jus­tice is­sues and pol­i­tics.”

She be­came a sta­tis­ti­cal sec­re­tary in the mar­ket­ing depart­ment of the old Bal­ti­more & Ohio Rail­road and worked at its One Charles Cen­ter build­ing in the mid-1960s.

Af­ter rais­ing a fam­ily, she ob­tained real es­tate and bro­ker li­censes and worked for Terry Mead Inc. Real­tors in Tow­son.

In 1976 she joined Smith Mead pub­lic re­la­tions and ad­ver­tis­ing firm. She ini­tially used her lan­guage skills to place ad­ver­tis­ing in for­eign tech­ni­cal mag­a­zines.

She be­came a part­ner and then pres­i­dent of the busi­ness in 1983. She re­tired in 2008 af­ter suf­fer­ing a stroke.

“Joanna con­sid­ered her pub­lic-re­la­tions spe­cialty to be spe­cial events, and she was as com­fort­able pro­duc­ing a trade show and bull roast for 1,000 home im­prove­ment con­trac­tors as she was pro­duc­ing fash­ion shows in ur­ban malls to at­tract teenagers to the Job Corps,” said Robert Mead, her former busi­ness part­ner and a friend.

In the 1970s she helped de­vise a mar­ket­ing cam­paign for neigh­bor­hoods along the Loch Raven Boule­vard cor­ri­dor in North­east Bal­ti­more. She worked with the North­east Real Es­tate Con­ser­va­tion Project, and friends said she used her knowl­edge of real es­tate and mar­ket­ing to boost sales of homes at a time when neigh­bor­hood lead­ers feared prop­er­ties could be sold to ab­sen­tee in­vestors.

She re­peated as­pects of the cam­paign in the 1990s in Southeast Bal­ti­more.

“The flight of Bal­ti­more fam­i­lies to the sub­urbs is a fa­mil­iar story,” said a 1995 Bal­ti­more Sun ar­ti­cle. “But the mar­ket­ing cam­paign be­ing launched by the non­profit Southeast De­vel­op­ment Inc. is the lat­est ini­tia­tive to take on the de­cline that has gripped the 30,000-home area as wa­ter­front fac­to­ries have closed and on­cethriv­ing neigh­bor­hoods have be­gun to empty.”

“Our re­search showed that Gen­er­a­tion Xers are the ones we have to con­cen­trate on,” Mrs. von Briesen said in the Sun ar­ti­cle. “They don’t come to this process with pre­con­ceived, re­in­forced neg­a­tive im­ages. They do want a home that will al­low them to walk along the Pat­ap­sco River to a cafe for din­ner or to the the­ater.”

She was one of three found­ing mem­bers of Re­build­ing To­gether Bal­ti­more, a char­i­ta­ble hous­ing and re­pair pro­gram orig­i­nally called Christ­mas in April. Mr. Mead said they en­gaged an es­ti­mated 20,000 vol­un­teers to help make no-cost re­pairs for low-in­come home­own­ers. He said the effort re­paired nearly 1,300 homes in Bal­ti­more City and Bal­ti­more County.

She was also an ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor for the Mary­land Im­prove­ment Con­trac­tors As­so­ci­a­tion, Bal­ti­more Cos­me­tol­o­gists As­so­ci­a­tion, the Ap­pli­ance Tech­ni­cians of Mary­land and the Mary­land So­ci­ety of Pro­fes­sional En­gi­neers.

Mr. Mead said that as part of a Depart­ment of La­bor’s Job Corps pro­gram for the Mid-At­lantic, Ms. von Briesen re­cruited teen girls from eco­nom­i­cally de­prived neigh­bor­hoods through­out the five-state re­gion into fed­eral Job Corps Cen­ters.

There they could earn GEDs and learn ca­reer skills

The Pub­lic Re­la­tions So­ci­ety of Amer­ica awarded her Job Corps cam­paign with a Sil­ver Anvil as “the best gov­ern­ment mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions in the United States.”

Mrs. von Briesen lived in Rodgers Forge and Charles Vil­lage, as well as Cross Keys. More re­cently she lived in Phoenix in Bal­ti­more County with her daugh­ter.

A gourmet cook, she was known for her Greek and French dishes.

“When she brought food to a party, the guests made it a point to eat hers first,” said her daugh­ter. She spe­cial­ized in roasted lamb, spinach pies and flan.

A fu­neral will be held at 10:30 a.m. Mon­day at the Greek Or­tho­dox Ceme­tery Chapel, 5917 Wind­sor Mill Road.

In ad­di­tion to her daugh­ter, sur­vivors in­clude an­other daugh­ter, Dianna R. von Briesen of Phoenix; a sis­ter, Kay Web­ster of Bal­ti­more; and a grand­daugh­ter. She was formerly mar­ried to John von Briesen. Joanna R. von Briesen was one of three found­ing mem­bers of a char­i­ta­ble hous­ing and re­pair or­ga­ni­za­tion

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