Robert J. Jantzen
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THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTER
Choices, consequences, and coloring books.
A personal essay by Paul H. Belz
Regina Marie Schroeder was born on Monday, March 15, 1937. She was always called Jeanne (pronounced like “genie”) instead of Regina. Her father Edward D. Schroeder was Jewish and her mother, the former Theresa Mary Rosendale, was Roman Catholic. They raised their two daughters Jeanne and Susan as Catholics in the Pimlico/Upper Park Heights neighborhood of northwest Baltimore City in the parish of St. Ambrose Church. The 1940 U.S. Census lists the Schroeder address (since at least 1935) as 2583 West Faystone Street.
Jeanne attended Western High School, a competitive-entry all-girls school in Baltimore, considered the top academic school for girls in the city. She graduated in 1955 at age 18 and won an award for academic achievement. She did not attend college.
During Jeanne’s teenage years the Schroeders moved to 5462 Addington Road on the west side of Baltimore and became parishioners of nearby St. Agnes Church. Jeanne attended Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) dances and at one of them she most likely met a parishioner of nearby St. Joseph’s
Monastery Church named Gerard “Jerry” Edward Ward. They were married on May 27th in 1956 when Jeanne was 19-years old. The wedding was held at Jeanne’s childhood church St. Ambrose. Jeanne’s relatives liked Jerry.
The couple rented an apartment in West Baltimore’s Uplands Apartment complex across from Edmondson Village Shopping Center. Jeanne began working as an administrative assistant, hired by a young lawyer named Marvin Ellin, who worked in the mid-1950s out of the Munsey Building adjacent to Baltimore City’s courthouse. Described as the “maestro of medical malpractice torts,” Ellin, who died at age 92 in 2016, pioneered malpractice law in Maryland, drew international attention for his innovations and remained a close friend of Baltimore mayor and Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer for decades. He changed the malpractice lawsuit paradigm by introducing the tactic of using experts from around the globe to validate his cases rather than relying on reluctant testimony from physicians’ colleagues. A second innovation was to seek seemingly outrageous monetary damages. His signature case was the suit of a hospital on behalf of a Florida couple given a sick newborn requiring expensive medical procedures before dying as an infant. Ellin ordered a blood test which proved his client had been given someone else’s baby by the hospital. Ellin sued for $100 million dollars and the case attracted the attention of the nation’s top-rated television shows including 60-Minutes, 20-20, and The Phil Donohue Show. His career subsequently flourished.
It seemed Jeanne was in a good place as a young bride employed by a rising legal star. But her goals were grander and they nagged at her.
Jeanne’s marriage to Jerry ended in divorce in the late 1950s, a victim of her ambition and dreams. Their last known photo together was taken in April, 1958.
She amicably left Ellin’s employ late in 1959 and it’s believed that coincided with her relationship with a new love interest named Robert J. Jantzen. On Jeanne’s recommendation Ellin hired her Aunt Mary Regina Schemm as her replacement. Her aunt wanted to return to the work force as her youngest son entered the first grade in September that year.
Jantzen appears in a 1963 Schroeder family photo and he attended Jeanne’s sister Susan’s college graduation from Towson State Teacher’s College (now Towson University) in 1967. As a twenty-something woman Jeanne may have met Bob at a Dixie Ballroom dance at Gwynn Oak Park. This was a popular meeting place for those beyond their teen years. She would not have frequented bars to meet men though her father was a bar owner.
The son of Dr. Francis T. and Alice M. Jantzen, Bob graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a mechanical engineering degree in 1957. He then worked six months as a second lieutenant for the Army Corps of Engineers and in 1958 joined Baltimore’s Ellicott Machine Corporation, a world-renowned company in the dredging business.
Not long after he joined Ellicott, Bob and Jeanne were married secretly at a justice of the peace. No family members were forewarned or invited to attend. She and Bob were Catholic and at that time in America there was a significant stigma attached to divorce. Divorced Catholics were excommunicated if they remarried. The couple began living in an upscale apartment on Charles Street in Baltimore. Bob was beloved by his family and respected by his business associates and the Schroeder family was similarly enthusiastic about Jeanne. This marriage became the critical crossroad in her life.
In 1966, the respected marine engineer left Ellicott and founded his own dredging firm named Jantzen Engineering Co., Inc. which thrived, specializing in dredge engineering/building and supplying parts to other dredge operators. The company eventually opened a second office in Long Beach, California. Bob became a national authority on dredging and is credited with dredging much of Baltimore City’s harbor.
The marriage dissolved between June, 1967 when Bob and Jeanne attended her sister’s graduation together and 1969, confirmed by the New York Times’ 1971 account of her indictment as a year when she was living at 500 East 77th Street in Manhattan and working for Paul Yanowicz at 711 Fifth Avenue.
Sometime after that college graduation of her sister’s, Jeanne crossed her personal Rubicon.
Helen M. Belz, the older sister of Jeanne’s mother, related to her children that Jeanne wanted to become a model. The Schroeder girls’ “Aunt Helen” recalled that Jeanne did some modeling work for Bonwit Teller Department Store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. It was likely there that she either met Yanowicz or was referred to him by a co-worker. She became Yanowicz’s bookkeeper and secretary. 711 Fifth Avenue was known as the Columbia Pictures Building (the Coca Cola Building in 2016) and was a fashionable address in Midtown Manhattan, a short walk from Rockefeller Center and Bonwit Teller. Before any of this could transpire, however, she had to convince her husband Bob to accommodate her dream and move to New York with her. With a promising new business gaining traction and which was more suited to dredge-needy Baltimore than to deep-water New York harbor he demurred. Jeanne, who scored high on the sliding scale of personality dominance, opted for her second divorce.
In Ancestry.com communications with this narrative’s author, Jantzen family members painted a sordid picture of the breakup. Jantzen family lore portrays her as a “jailbird with a blond beehive hairdo.” They say Jeanne cleaned out the couple’s bank accounts and left for New York with all of the apartment’s furniture while Bob was out of the home. A devastated Bob never had children of his own though he eventually married a divorced woman named Jo Ann, gaining two stepdaughters and eventually four step-grandchildren. Jeanne never bore children either. She kept the last name Jantzen despite the divorce. That was unusual for a divorcee without children and indicated that a flame still burned in her heart for her ex-husband. Most women in that circumstance reclaim their maiden names.
Paul Yanowicz was wealthy and brilliant. His business in New York was real estate investment and it was a sole proprietorship. He was a former human rights/law professor who remained a member of the Board of Governors as well as the Board of Directors of Tel Aviv University. Yanowicz frequently traveled to Israel and left his business in the hands of Jeanne, who paid all of the bills and signed all of the checks. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) require that bookkeeping and check-writing be done by different individuals but Jeanne was charming enough to earn his complete trust.
In August, 1971 Yanowicz’s CPA mentioned to him that he had recently been spending a lot of money, specifically over $200,000 in six weeks. The comment prompted Yanowicz to order an audit which revealed that Jeanne was embezzling funds. Instead of writing checks to cash for his $250 weekly “petty cash” she was cutting checks for large sums (such as $8,000 or more) and keeping the difference.
A New York Times article written by Lacey Fosburgh (who died at age 50 of breast cancer in January, 1993) revealed that Jeanne was indicted on November 23, 1971 (her third year in the employ of Yanowicz) for stealing $384,451 from her employer’s accounts. The brunette turned blonde pleaded “not guilty” to 14 counts of grand larceny in the second degree, three counts of grand larceny in the third degree and seven counts of possession of forged instruments. The charges combined carried a potential prison sentence of 25 years. The Judge handling the case was John M. Murtagh. The prosecutor was Leonard Newman, chief of the frauds bureau in the New York District Attorney’s office. She was released on $15,000 bail.
The prosecutors believed that most of the money had been given to Jeanne’s boyfriend to satisfy his gambling debts. She refused to identify the boyfriend and he remained unidentified in the New York Times account of the crime. Fosburgh’s news story also identifies Jeanne as a 26-year old (the age at the time of her younger sister Susan). Since 26 was and still is the age when modeling careers dramatically wane, the 34-year old likely misrepresented her age to enhance her job prospects.
Jeanne was probably well-paid for the services she provided Yanowicz. She was a smart woman and must have known an audit would be done eventually. For that reason this writer believes the never-identified boyfriend hatched the scheme to embezzle from an easy mark with a careless bookkeeping policy and make Jeanne his patsy. Because the police and New York Times reporter were unable to identify the boyfriend it’s believed that he threatened Jeanne if she implicated him. Under duress from the mafia to repay his debts he may have also forced Jeanne into some of the extravagant purchases she made to ensure there would be no sympathy from a jury when she went to trial.
Jeanne had once mailed an expensive-looking ring to her mother for “safekeeping” but her mother mailed it back, not feeling comfortable with the request. Prosecutors said Jeanne spent $41,000 of the stolen money on jewelry. She also enjoyed the Metropolitan Opera on Saturdays and hired limousines for travel to work while her employer was taking the subway every day.
She was found guilty of an unknown number of charges, began serving a prison sentence on August 14, 1974 and her sister Susan believes she spent at least one year in jail.
A record obtained from the New York Department of Corrections confirms Jeanne’s incarceration date as August 14, 1974 for grand larceny, arrest type “F” (felony), level Fd.
According to a cousin (Charles “Terry” Schemm) Jeanne’s father Edward Schroeder called her regularly and her sister Susan quantified it as once a year. The last time he phoned the line was disconnected. He drove to her apartment in New York City and the neighbors told him she had disappeared suddenly and left no forwarding address. Subsequently she never contacted any member of her immediate or extended family. From that point until her life was researched at the end of 2016 Jeanne’s family was unaware of her whereabouts, her fate, or the details of her life’s final years.
Jeanne’s father Edward died on December 22, 1998 and her mother Mary died on February 28, 2003, neither knowing the whereabouts of their first-born child.
Yanowicz died on April 2, 2005 at the age of 86 and Tel Aviv University’s “Anny and Paul Yanowicz Chair of Human Rights” bears his name.
Intelius.com revealed that in 2016 Jeanne’s first husband Gerard E. Ward was 82-years old and living in Laurel, Maryland.
Robert Jantzen died of pancreatic cancer on September 30, 2002. On Friday, October 4, a large crowd attended a funeral Mass celebrated for him at St. Ursula’s Catholic Church in Baltimore County and he’s buried in nearby Parkwood Cemetery on Taylor Avenue in Parkville, Maryland in a section named “Pine,” in lot 67 atop a hillside overlooking an American flag and a rustic pond. He was 68 years old.
Born Regina Marie Schroeder, Social Security records show Jeanne changed her name four times. After marrying Robert she became Jeanne Marie Jantzen, eschewing her given name “Regina.” After divorcing him she used Jeannemarie Jantzen, Jeanne Marie Schroeder and died on Saturday, January 31, 2004 identified in the Social Security Administration’s death index as Jeannemari Jantzen. For an undetermined period she had lived at 15 Jones Street, apartment 16 in Greenwich Village, New York. This address was confirmed as her last known by Checkmate.com investigative service (without the domicile dates) and Jeanne’s sister Susan remembers her father mentioning Jones Street. The cause of Jeanne’s death, her burial site, end-of-life associates, and the existence of a will are unknown to her sister as of December 2016. Her death at age 66 was far younger than family genetics would suggest.
That Jeanne never bore a child and kept the Jantzen surname until she died and that Bob never bore a child despite remarrying suggests mutual affection that was never totally extinguished. The fact that they may have kept a residual flame of love burning deep inside but realized that reconciliation was impossible made their story akin to a Greek tragedy.
A cousin, Ann E. Belz, was born the same year as Jeanne. In a vivid and inexplicably enduring childhood memory she recalls their maternal grandmother lavishing praise on Jeanne on multiple occasions for being able to stay within the lines in her coloring book. In life’s coloring book, sadly, her crayon slipped.
Paul Belz Writings
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