Ross B. Diffenderffer, real estate agent, 67

March 11, 1991|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff

Ross B. Diffenderffer, a Towson real estate agent and political ally of former Baltimore County Executive Dale Anderson, died Thursday at St. Joseph Hospital after a long illness. He was 67.

A memorial service for Mr. Diffenderffer was held Saturday at Trinity Episcopal Church in Towson.

A private real estate agent, Mr. Diffenderffer also administered federal rent-subsidy programs in the county. He was indicted in 1981 on charges of embezzling $187,723 of that money over a period of years. He pleaded guilty in 1982 and served two years of a five-year prison sentence.

He lived his final seven years after his release from prison as a poor, sick man, said friends and political associates. He was unemployed and troubled by chronic heart disease for most of that time, they said.

Mr. Diffenderffer grew up in Baltimore County and graduated from McDonogh School in Owings Mills in 1941. He was a real estate appraiser and broker and served from 1963 to 1967 as a member of the Maryland Real Estate Commission. In the 1970s, he served on the state Transportation Authority, which had power over toll bridges, roads and tunnels.

A former president of the Maryland chapter of the American Society of Appraisers, he had appraised much of the land bought for the Beltway and Interstate 95 (the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway).

He also was active in Democratic Party politics and in 1970 served as campaign treasurer for Mr. Anderson.

Two years later, Mr. Anderson awarded Mr. Diffenderffer the state contract to administer all federal rent subsidy programs in the county, which, at that time, had no housing department of its own.

A former employee alleged in May 1981 that Mr. Diffenderffer routinely awarded federal rent subsidies as favors to the relatives of his political contacts, discriminated against blacks and Jews and added or removed names from the list of applicants virtually at whim. He also gave his workers federal housing subsidies instead of pay raises, according to several of them, a violation of federal rules for the program.

Survivors include two daughters, Susan Lee Diffenderffer of Baltimore and Sarah Elizabeth Adams of Towson; two sons, Ross B. Diffenderffer Jr. of Ruxton and Michael Claude Diffenderffer of Riderwood; and six grandchildren.

The family suggested memorial contributions to McDonogh School.

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