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Published: Tuesday, 12/14/2010

DEBORAH LYNNE FLEITZ, 1952-2010: Ex-BGSU publicity chief aide for famed conductor

PLEASANT RIDGE, Mich. — Deborah Lynne Fleitz, 58, former director of public events for Bowling Green State University who left that position to become the executive assistant to Leonard Slatkin, music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, died in her home Friday of ovarian cancer.

Mrs. Fleitz, who was born Sept. 1, 1952, in New York City, had pursued a career as a singer but switched to the artist management field, where she remained for 20 years, because she wanted to stay in Manhattan, her husband, David Fleitz, said.

By time she was in her 40s, she was ready for a career change and accepted the public events position at BGSU, he said.

“Bowling Green was as different from New York City as it could possibly be,” Mr. Fleitz said.

But she loved the outdoors and the rural setting allowed her to pursue her passion of riding horses.

In her position with BGSU's college of musical arts, she orchestrated the annual Festival Series that drew to the campus such renowned and diverse artists as the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, jazz violinist Regina Carter, mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the Vienna Choir Boys, the Ethos Percussion Ensemble, flutist James Galway, and tenor Hugh Smith.

The Festival Series became one of the area's most important providers of chamber music with the Tokyo String Quartet and St. Martin in the Fields among the performers.

In 2008, her last year at BGSU, Mrs. Fleitz lamented that budget cuts restricted the scheduling of big-name performers.

She left BGSU to become Mr. Slatkin's executive assistant, handling bookings, travel, and other details for the newly appointed Detroit conductor.

“She was responsible for almost every aspect of my professional life,” Mr. Slatkin wrote in a tribute posted on his Web site.

“She kept track of where I was supposed to be and worked with managers, artists, and musicians from around the world. Every time I wrote something for this site, it was her hand that dotted the i's and crossed the t's.”

Mr. Fleitz said his wife became acquitted with Mr. Slatkin while she worked for the artist agency ICM in New York.

“In fact, she even brought him to Bowling Green to conduct a workshop,” he said.

Working as Mr. Slatkin's assistant could be demanding, fielding calls to resolve travel problems or other issues that arose for the globe-trotting musical director.

“It was quite a job and she saw it as a challenge. Leonard is a great guy to work for,” Mr. Fleitz said.

Mr. Slatkin praised Mrs. Fleitz for the energy she brought to her position, even while dealing with her infirmity.

“Her work ethic was tireless. There was no clock in Deb's world,” Mr. Slatkin wrote, noting that she had “energized [BGSU's] presenting program and her connections with the music world paid off.”

When the Detroit Symphony had to cut its budget, Mrs. Fleitz “stepped in and took over many jobs. Her experience in the field made her invaluable to the artistic side. And Deb's insight into the performer's milieu put her in a position to work with any artist who came to town.”

David Fleitz met his wife-to-be in 1997 while both were involved in a community theater production of The Drunkard, a musical set to the tunes and lyrics of Barry Manilow.

“She was the heroine and I was the villain,” Mr. Fleitz said. They were married a year later in Grand Rapids, Ohio.

Mrs. Fleitz was diagnosed with cancer a year before taking the Detroit position. In an interview with The Blade in 2007, she admitted that the fatigue was overwhelming.

“She got tired easily, but she didn't let it slow her down,” her husband said.

When her hair began to fall out from chemotherapy, she had it cut off and wore hats.

In recent weeks a strong reoccurrence of the cancer sent her to a hospital, where she remained for three weeks, her husband said.

When she was able to communicate again, her brother, Richard Meth, and her husband decided to bring her back home. She died the next day.

She is survived by her husband, David Fleitz; brother Richard Meth; her mother, Doris Siegel, and stepmother Elaine Meth.

Services will be today at Desmond and Sons Funeral Home, Royal Oak, Mich.

Contributions were suggested to Gilda's Club of Metro Detroit.

Contact: Jim Sielicki at

jsielicki@theblade.com or

419-724-6050



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