Mathilde “Mimi” Lee
Mathilde “Mimi” Lee
Mathilde "Mimi" Lee, a philanthropist and former first lady of Maryland, was remembered at her Aug. 15 Funeral Mass as "a wonderful woman" whose life "truly did give glory to God."

Lee, 91, died Aug. 9 at Laurel Regional Hospital. She had congestive heart failure.

Her husband, Blair Lee III, a Democrat who previously served as Maryland lieutenant governor, secretary of state and in both houses of the state legislature, was lieutenant governor under Marvin Mandel in the 1970s. In 1977, when Mandel was facing racketeering charges, Blair Lee became acting governor. He held that post until 1979, losing the 1978 gubernatorial primary to Harry Hughes.

The couple had eight children. They lived in Silver Spring, and were members of St. John the Baptist Parish there.

Msgr. Francis Kazista, a retired priest who served for many years as pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish, was the main celebrant of the funeral Mass. Father Y. David Brault, the pastor of St. John the Baptist, was concelebrant.

Msgr. Kazista remembered Lee as a founding member of St. John the Baptist Parish, and noted that "she opened her home and garden for parish fundraising activities."

Lee also was a Girl Scout leader and a fundraiser for Holy Cross Hospital, the American Red Cross and the March of Dimes.

He noted that the parish community was saddened "by the loss of this wonderful woman."

Born Mathilde Boal to Pierre de Lagarde Boal and Jeanne de Menthon, she was named after her paternal grandmother, a descendant of Christopher Columbus. Her father was a diplomat who served in posts around the world, including as U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua and Bolivia. Her mother was said to be a descendant of Bernard de Menthon, the 11th-century saint for whom the rescue dogs are named.
She earned a degree in chemistry from Bryn Mawr College in 1943. The following year she married Francis Preston Blair Lee III, a World War II naval officer and descendant of both Richard Henry Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Francis Preston Blair, a confidant of Presidents Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln.

Noting that the Gospel readings for the funeral Mass focused on the Beatitudes, Msgr. Kazista said the passage teaches "valuing each other as children of God ... focusing on the love of God and the love of others ... and standing for what is right and good."

"Slowly and unobtrusively, Mimi Lee lived out those Beatitudes," Msgr. Kazista said. "She was a contributor to the welfare not just of her family, but the whole community."

Lee was also known for her love of outdoor activities. She hiked, skied, canoed and camped, and taught swimming to disabled children. She remained active most of her life and participated in the Senior Olympics.

"As an avid outdoors person, she had a great respect for all of God's creation," Msgr. Kazista said.

He told mourners at the funeral Mass that they should recognize "your good fortune to love and be loved by Mimi Lee" and they should have "a deep gratitude to God for all that Mimi Lee meant."

"Her life truly did give glory to God," Msgr. Kazista said.

In addition to her husband, who died in 1985, Lee was predeceased by one son, Pierre B. Lee, who died in 1973.

She is survived by five sons: Blair Lee IV of Silver Spring; Joseph W. Lee of Old Fields, W.Va.; Christopher G. Lee of Boalsburg, Pa.; Philip L. Lee of Potomac; and John F. Lee of Brookeville; two daughters: Erica B. Lee of Corvallis, Mont.; and Jenny Sataloff of Baltimore; 19 grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and one sister.

Memorial contributions may be made to the National Capital Girl Scouts at GSCNC, 4301 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite M2, Washington, D.C. 20008 or to the Boal Mansion Museum, P.O. Box 116, Boalsburg, Pa. 16827.