Neighbors Mourn Ellicott City Pair

February 10, 1991|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff writer

Margaret and Kenneth Jahn were not flashy people. But for those who knew them in their pastoral Ellicott City neighborhood, flashiness meant very little.

"Families in this little neighborhood are very close. We used to spend a lot of time on their porch watching the sun go down," said Craig Wasserman, a neighbor to the Jahns. "They didn't flaunt anything. It wasn't their style."

The Jahns, who were killed Thursday when their private plane crashed in Skaneateles, N.Y., had a comfortable lifestyle in their well-to-do neighborhood on Church Road. Margaret Jahn, 34, a former local tennis champion, had her own tennis court and often invited neighbors over to play.

Kenneth Jahn, 36, loved Ellicott City so much that he opted to "fly to work," as one neighbor puts it, rather than move away. His frequent plane trips to his corporate headquarters in Chicago became the running joke among friends.

Their 7-year-old son, Matthew, who suffered a fractured skull when he was thrown from the plane, remains in stable condition at University Hospital in Syracuse. Heis well-known to many of the neighborhood's older residents, who sayhis appetite for ice cream is unsurpassed.

"This is a remarkable family who touched everyone in the neighborhood," Wasserman said. "Right now, there's a great amount of emptiness around here."

KennethJahn, the vice president of Chicago Metal Corp., was a talented handyman who chose always to fix his own household appliances, even though he had the financial means to hire someone else to worry about it, said George Bayless, who lives next door.

Bayless said Jahn had recently built a community work shed on his property and supplied it with tools so that the neighbors could have their own "fix-it" shop.

"Most of the time, though, he fixed things for us," Bayless said. "He could fix anything. He was the greatest neighbor you could ever have."

The Jahns' affluence had little impact on their quiet lifestyle. Outside of their own neighborhood, they had little contact with other county residents and chose instead to spend weekends in the neighborhood.

Federal aviation officials are still investigating the crash, which occurred in bad weather just outside of Auburn, N.Y. The couple was in the area to attend the funeral of Margaret Jahn's uncle.

Family members say the Jahns' 3-year-old daughter, Margaret Ellen, did not accompany her parents to the funeral in New York.

The Jahns were former residents of upstate New York, where at the age of 15Margaret Jahn won the Auburn City Tennis Championship for women. Hermother was the first woman to be elected president of the Auburn school board.

Friends say that the couple moved to Ellicott City in 1981, when Kenneth Jahn began working for his father's Chicago-based metal company. His home office was located on U.S. 1 in Laurel, although he frequently had to fly to Chicago on business.

Kenneth Jahn "was a very conscientious flier," and followed maintenance procedures to the letter, said Frank Taylor, a neighbor and friend to the family. Taylor retired seven years ago after working nearly 40 years as director of accident investigations for the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the Jahn plane crash.

"He was a pretty sharp young man, and he took very good care of that plane," Taylor said. "When he was looking to buy a plane, he came to me and talked about what would be best."

Taylor said his office was typicallyin charge of investigating between 1,200 and 1,500 fatal airplane accidents a year. The Jahn accident, he said, has hit him harder than any he had ever investigated.

"They were just a great young couple," Taylor said. "It will be hard for the kids to come back to the neighborhood now."

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