Raleigh Herman Atkins became known as the 102nd person murdered in Baltimore this year. To those who knew him best, though, Atkins was a throwback to another era -- a person who carried his pride and compassion with a silent sense of dignity.
Family members said Atkins never hesitated to extend a hand to someone in need. And he also could cook up a mean pot of bean soup.
Atkins, 81, of the 1700 block of Clarkson St., was stabbed once in the back after two men forced their way into his home yesterday looking for his grandson, police said.
A bail review hearing in District Court was scheduled today for two men charged in the killing.
Frank C. Bisesi Jr., 27, of the 500 block of Cathedral St., and Mark Lyndon Kirby, 31, of the 5800 block of Windsor Mill Road, were charged with first-degree murder shortly before 3 a.m. yesterday, police said. A court commissioner ordered them held without bail at the City Jail.
Paul G. Kratsas, 26, was Atkins' grandson. But Kratsas called Atkins "dad" because Atkins "just took me in when I was six weeks old . . . just kind of by mutual agreement."
Atkins also had two grown children of his own.
Kratsas, who lived at the Clarkson Street home and was the person being sought by the intruders, said Atkins "raised me real good. He was always there for me. He never hit me, never put his hands on me."
And, Kratsas said, everyone in the rough-and-tumble street world of industrial South Baltimore knew Atkins.
"After he retired, he would sit on the steps or stand on the corner and talk to people," Kratsas said. "He loved talking with people or just riding around in his Subaru."
Another characteristic held by the victim was that he rarely missed a day of work, even when ill. Atkins grew up on a tobacco farm in southern Virginia and carried that work ethic with him when he went to work for the Athey Paint Co. on nearby Bayard Street.
It was a job he would hold for nearly 50 years.
"I knew him 30 of those years," said the paint firm's president, Morris Spedden. "He hardly missed a day. He started in the factory and retired as the custodian in our main offices.
"He was as dedicated as they come, steady as they come," Spedden said. "He even came back after retirement to talk with the girls or put up Christmas decorations."
And, Spedden said with marked delight, Atkins concocted a championship pot of bean soup.
"People marveled at it, he would fix bean soup for everybody and they loved it," he said.
Police said Atkins was taken by ambulance to the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore, where he died at 2:20 a.m. yesterday, about an hour after the stabbing.
Homicide detectives said Atkins was asleep on a front-room sofa about 1 a.m. when two men entered the house and demanded drugs from his grandson.
Kratsas told police he doesn't deal drugs and thought the men used that as an excuse to enter the house after he fought recently with the brother of one of the intruders.
Kratsas got a knife from the kitchen and ordered the men to leave, but he was disarmed during a brief scuffle, police said.
Police said Kratsas fled the house to get a weapon from his girlfriend's house, also on Clarkson Street. About that time, Atkins awakened, police said.