Memorial mass honors Howard Head

March 07, 1991|By Patrick Ercolano | Patrick Ercolano,Evening Sun Staff

Howard Head became a millionaire by redesigning sports equipment. But in a memorial service today at St. Mary's Seminary in Roland Park, the Baltimore philanthropist and businessman was remembered for his "greatest reconstruction project" -- the remaking of himself late in life from a crusty skeptic into a man who came to know God through a woman's love.

Mr. Head, 76, died Sunday at Johns Hopkins Hospital of complications from heart surgery. He made his name and his millions making aluminum skis and the large-head Prince tennis racket.

About 300 of his relatives and friends, including prominent members of the local business community, attended a Catholic memorial mass in St. Mary's ornate chapel. Pam Shriver, who first popularized the Prince racket at the 1978 U.S. Open, was at the service.

The celebrant was the Rev. Robert F. Leavitt, the rector of St. Mary's, who said he met Mr. Head seven years ago when the businessman approached the priest and announced, "I want to marry a wonderful Catholic woman. How do I do it?"

In his homily, Rev. Leavitt described his observations of the tender relationship that grew between Mr. Head and that "wonderful Catholic woman," the former Martha Becker Fritzlen, or "Marty."

Howard Head "discovered God vicariously" through his wife, Rev. Leavitt said. And through her love, the priest said, Mr. Head became able to "recognize the true face of God." It was not the God of the theologians and zealots that he always was leery of, but rather "the God of love."

Sister Constance FitzGerald, a Catholic nun who met Mr. Head 10 years ago, read comments written by Peter Culman, who was out of town. Mr. Culman is the director of Center Stage, a main beneficiary of Mr. Head's largess. The Head family asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Center Stage, where the newly constructed Head Theater was dedicated last month.

Mr. Culman's comments praised Mr. Head as a man who "craved riveting theater, and riveting, gutsy life."

The theater director also cited the positive impact Marty Head's love had on her husband. So did Sister Constance, who offered (( her own remembrance of Mr. Head as a man whose "last and perhaps greatest reconstruction project" was the way he

"re-created his personality -- his soul, if you will -- through the love of his wife. Religious people call this conversion. Psychologists call it something else."

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