John P. Zebelean Jr., 80, lawyer, People's Court judge

March 03, 1995|By DeWitt Bliss | DeWitt Bliss,Sun Staff Writer

John P. Zebelean Jr., a retired lawyer and former judge of the Baltimore County People's Court, died Tuesday at St. Agnes Hospital of an infection centered on the heart valves. He was 80 and had lived on Wilkens Avenue in Catonsville since 1925.

Mr. Zebelean, who was an advocate of establishing a District Court in the county, served on the People's Court in Catonsville from 1959 until 1963 and from 1967 until 1971. The court heard minor civil cases.

In 1965, he was named to the Baltimore County Bar Association's committee on the courts of limited jurisdiction. The next year, he filed a minority report urging that the county adopt a new court system with full-time judges. The bar association adopted his report rather than that of the majority. In 1967, as chairman of the committee, he proposed such a court to the legislature.

His last term on the People's Court ended in 1971 as the present statewide District Court system began operating.

C. Victor McFarland, a Catonsville lawyer and former magistrate, described Mr. Zebelean as "quite a student of the law" and praised his sense of humor.

Mr. Zebelean was a native of Baltimore and a graduate of Catonsville High School and the University of Maryland. He entered the Army in December 1940 and served in the Aleutians during World War II. He attained the rank of major.

He began practicing law in Baltimore after graduating from the University of Maryland law school in 1948. He opened an office in Catonsville in 1955 and retired in 1976.

He had been vice president and counsel for the Caton Savings and Loan Association. When it was merged in 1967 into what is now the Loyola Federal Savings Bank, he became a member of its Catonsville advisory board. In 1966, he was president of the Maryland League of Building and Savings and Loan Associations.

In the 1960s, he served on gubernatorial commissions that proposed legislation to create an agency to regulate the state chartered associations and the Maryland Savings Share Insurance Corp, to insure deposits.

He was a former president of the Catonsville Business Association and a former vice president of the advisory council of Catonsville Community College. He was commander of the Russell-Sernocky Post and held state offices in the American Legion.

Services were to be held at 11 a.m. today at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, 200 Ingleside Ave., Catonsville.

His wife, the former Thelma Alice Barden, died June 16. He is survived by a son, retired Air Force Lt. Col. John P. Zebelean III of Crofton; a daughter, Alice Rose Slisher of Leesport, Pa.; and two grandsons.

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