Constantine Uchuck, 101, Russian immigrant

October 08, 1993|By DeWitt Bliss | DeWitt Bliss,Staff Writer

Constantine Uchuck, a retired shop foreman who was described in the Congressional Record as personifying "the struggles, trials and triumphs" of many immigrants, died Tuesday of cancer at Stella Maris Hospice. He was 101.

Mr. Uchuck, known as Gus to fellow workers in clothing manufacturing, had moved from the Clifton Park area to Lutherville about six years ago.

He retired nearly 20 years ago after about 45 years with the Hirshey Clothing Co. and had earlier worked for other clothing manufacturers.

Born to a Russian family of 11 children in the Ukraine, he came to Baltimore in 1910.

Last year, Mr. Uchuck was mentioned in the Congressional Record by Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, the Maryland Republican, after she met him at the 73rd anniversary celebration of the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church, of which he was the last surviving founder.

Mrs. Bentley also described Mr. Uchuck as "full of character and spirit."

Other founders of Holy Trinity included two of his brothers, whom he had brought to this country. He also sent money and clothing to other relatives in the old country.

In his retirement, Mr. Uchuck became known as "The Tomato Man" for the bushels he donated to senior centers, soup kitchens and similar organizations.

Besides delivering baskets of tomatoes to Our Daily Bread or Beans and Bread, or handing out bags full at the Waxter Center, he set up a regular schedule under which people from the organizations could came out to his garden on Belair Road in Putty Hill and pick their own.

During World War II, when he worked as a pipe fitting group leader building Liberty ships at the Bethlehem Steel yard at Fairfield, he bought what a son describes as "a couple of acres" along Belair Road above Putty Hill Road.

In addition to the 300 tomato plants he set out each year during his retirement, he also grew cucumbers, sweet peppers and flowers, and had apple, plum and pear trees and a grape arbor.

He continued the gardening until he was in his mid-90s, stopping only when the land was condemned for road construction.

He traveled to and from the plot by bus because of increasing blindness.

"[Despite that], he was amazing, astounding," said his son, George Uchuck. "He would see things that escaped us."

His other son, Alexander Uchuck, spoke of his father's love of friendly conversation and his fluency in Slavic and other languages. On a trip to the Soviet Union in the mid-1970s, Mr. Uchuck chatted in Polish with a woman sitting next to him on a plane. Later, in a hotel lobby, he conversed with two Yugoslavian government officials in their language.

Services were set for 10 a.m. today at the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church, 1723 E. Fairmount Ave.

His wife, the former Anne Sutkus, died in 1951. In addition to his sons, both of Lutherville, survivors include a daughter, Mildred Meyers of Essex; 13 grandchildren; and 16 great-grandchildren.

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