By Josh Kurtz
Michael A. Pretl, a lawyer and progressive activist who has been associated with several high-profile causes through the years, died on Christmas Day following a heart attack three days earlier. He was 76.
Pretl spent most of his life in and around Baltimore before relocating to Mardela Springs on the Eastern Shore about 15 years ago.
After graduating from Catholic University and Georgetown University Law School, Pretl was an attorney in private practice for many years. He eventually started his own firm to fight for women rendered infertile by the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device — after initially representing pharmaceutical companies in his previous job. He then became general counsel to the American Urological Association where he remained for 17 years, and wound up teaching environmental law at Salisbury University.
Throughout his legal career, Pretl did pro bono work and was active in an array of community and political organizations.
An early president of the Northeast Community Organization and Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc., Pretl was involved in the fight to integrate Northeast Baltimore. He was also a longtime board member of the Community Law Center in Baltimore, which offers pro bono representation to communities in need of legal representation to fight vacant housing, liquor license violations and urban blight.
Pretl also provided pro bono legal services to dozens of nonprofit groups looking to get established. Among the groups he helped incorporate were Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse and the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative. He was serving as secretary/treasurer and counsel to the board of the health care group at the time of his death.
“As I think about the next time I face a seemingly intractable issue and can’t call Mike, I hope that I will be able to dig deep into what he taught me about hard work and creative thinking and solve the problem in a way that would make Mike proud,” said Vincent DeMarco, executive director of the Health Initiative.
After moving to the Eastern Shore, Pretl became involved with several environmental organizations, including the Wicomico Environmental Trust, Lower Shore Land Trust, Nanticoke Watershed Alliance and Friends of the Nanticoke. He was nominated to the board of the Maryland Environmental Trust by House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel).
Pretl also served on the board of Friends of Delmarva Public Radio and the progressive group Our Maryland, among other organizations.
In addition to his wife, Michele Hughes, Pretl is survived by four daughters, Patricia Pretl of Larchmont, N.Y.; Julia Pretl and Katherine Pretl of Baltimore, and Alexandra Hughes of Annapolis; and six grandchildren. Two brothers and one sister also survive him. He was preceded in death by two sisters.
Pretl donated his body to scientific research.
Two life celebrations will be held in his honor: from 10:30 a.m. to noon Jan. 6 at Westminster Hall, 519 W. Fayette St., in Baltimore, and at 2 p.m. on Jan. 13 at Dove Pointe, 1225 Mt. Hermon Road in Salisbury.
In lieu of flowers, Pretl’s family is asking that contributions be made in his name to the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance, the Wicomico Environmental Trust, the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative Education Fund Inc. or the Community Law Center.