'Frankie' DiGennaro, photographer and powerboating enthusiast, 77

September 30, 1994|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writer

Francis J. "Frankie" DiGennaro, a commercial photographer who continued to work despite increasing blindness, died Sept. 22 of complications from diabetes at his Bel Air home. He was 77.

"He had a trick that he knew would always work as his sight began to fail," said his son, Tom DiGennaro of Glen Burnie, a professional photographer. "He would set the f-stop on eight at 8 feet and used a flash. I developed his film for him and saw the results, which were acceptable."

Joe DiPaola, a retired Sun photographer and friend for nearly 60 years, said, "He didn't want to give up. He didn't want to hang the camera up. I was helping him out on jobs and just visited him two weeks ago."

James H. Bready, a retired Evening Sun editorial writer, would use Mr. DiGennaro as a photographer when he had free-lance writing assignments. "Frankie would go anywhere, anytime, to shoot your picture," he said. "He didn't stand on any artistic or professional dignity -- he made the picture and he made it fast.

"He was a wonderfully pleasing person who didn't have to tell people to smile because they were already smiling."

Mr. DiGennaro was born and reared in East Baltimore, where his parents settled in 1910 after emigrating from Abruzzi, Italy.

He was a graduate of St. Andrew parochial school and left high school during the Depression to help his father, who was a tailor.

He also worked at other jobs and got interested in photography when he drove a cab and took newspaper photographers to their assignments.

"I got to know him when he was a cabdriver and used to hang around the photographers at the old Sun Building at Baltimore and Charles streets," recalled Mr. DiPaola. "He would go out on jobs with us and eventually learned how to handle a camera."

"He admired the work of A. Aubrey Bodine and was a student of his. He was always proud that he learned so much from him," said his son.

Mr. DiGennaro used a Speed Graphic camera long after they went out of style and chewed on El Producto cigars while he worked.

He operated a commercial photography business out of his home on Chinquapin Parkway for more than 40 years. His client list ranged from Bethlehem Steel Corp. to politicians to Little League ball players.

His other passion was his powerboat, the Rio DiGennaro. He was a member of the Propeller Club and the Order of the Sons of Italy.

A memorial service will be held at noon tomorrow at St. Matthew's Roman Catholic Church, 5401 Loch Raven Boulevard, Baltimore.

Other survivors include his wife of 50 years, the former Alice Andre; a daughter, Maria LoBianco of Lutherville; two brothers, Michael DiGennaro of Ocean City and Tony DiGennaro of Dundalk; six grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

Memorial donations may be made to the American Diabetes Association Maryland Affiliate, 407 Central Ave., Reisterstown 21136.

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