Stanley 'Stasch' Federowicz, known as Fells Point's 'eyes and ears,' dies

April 28, 1993|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

When the regular beat cop in Fells Point took a couple of days off, the officer could always count on Stasch Federowicz to fill him in when he got back to Thames Street.

"Stasch knew everybody, and everybody knew Stasch," said Officer Mike Armiger. "I wish we had more people like him in the neighborhoods.

"It's good for a foot officer to know you've got eyes and ears when you're off."

The eyes and ears of Fells Point died at St. Agnes Hospital on Monday when Stanley Federowicz succumbed to complications after a heart attack.

At age 64, Mr. Federowicz had accumulated knowledge of just about everything of consequence to the peculiar stretch of Baltimore waterfront at the foot of Broadway.

Said Waterfront Hotel owner Gene Raynor, whose memory of Mr. Federowicz goes back to their childhoods in the neighborhood: "Stasch was a walking encyclopedia of Fells Point."

Over the years, the lifelong bachelor and collector of duck decoys did odd jobs and cleanup work in just about every gin mill and restaurant from Bond Street to Wolfe Street.

His days were spent walking his own beat from his South Wolfe Street apartment, to the mailbox outside of John Steven Ltd., through both sheds of the Broadway Market, on up Broadway for a bite, and back again.

At night, he helped waitresses clear their tables, cooks clean their kitchens and bartenders sweep and mop the floors and take out the trash; a time-honored Fells Point vocation known among sea dogs as "a swamper."

And in his travels, Mr. Federowicz picked up information.

If a car sat unattended for more than a few days, Stasch could describe it. If some wisenheimer was going from bar to bar trying to pass off rolls of pennies as rolls of dimes, Stasch blew the whistle.

If a member of the dwindling population of Fells Point old-timers became seriously ill -- a group of genuine, unaffected characters of which Mr. Federowicz was among the very last -- Stasch kept abreast of the news through the surgery, death and burial.

"He was our town crier," said George Figgs, owner of the Orpheum Theatre, where Mr. Federowicz helped keep the movie house clean, kept a trusted eye on the cash box and walked away with bags of stale popcorn to feed sea gulls.

Born at a time when Fells Point was simply known as Broadway and its demographics were almost uniformly Polish and poor, Stanley Federowicz was the last of 14 children born to Walter and Pauline Federowicz, turn-of-the-century immigrants from the old country.

Mr. Federowicz attended old School No. 25 on Bond Street through about the fifth grade before quitting to go to work. One of his favorite sayings -- "Nothing's illegal if you get away with it" -- was forged in a young adulthood of running numbers.

At 14, he lied about his age to join the merchant marine and, according to legend, took all of the neighborhood children to the movies when he returned from his first voyage.

In his 20s, he worked in a Caroline Street packing house, where he lost two fingers on his right hand. In the 1940s, he was known to sing tenor with an a cappella trio at local bars. For about the next 20 years, he worked as a jack-of-all-trades at a motel-restaurant in York, Pa., called the Sword and Shield.

By the late 1960s, he had returned to the streets and saloons of his early years, where he remained until his death. Having watched Fells Point go through radical changes -- from ships to chic in half a century -- Mr. Federowicz was a candid cynic who prided himself on spotting a phony across the length of any bar.

"My favorite memory of Stasch is watching him sit on the pier at the end of Ann Street, listening to the Gypsy Kings on his boombox, feeding the sea gulls and watching the water with his binoculars," Mr. Figgs said.

A Mass of Christian burial for Stanley Federowicz is to be offered at 9 a.m. tomorrow at St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church, 700 S. Ann St.

He is survived by two sisters, Clara Kukielski of Hamilton and Marie Johnson of South Baltimore.

The family suggests memorial donations to the American Heart Association.

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