Elbert "Doc" Hall, a retired Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. public relations supervisor and a World War II combat veteran who witnessed the Japanese surrender, died Wednesday from complications of pneumonia at Sinai Hospital. He was 73.
The Perry Hall resident retired from the telephone company in 1982. He began his career there in 1946 as a cable splicer and was promoted to installer and repair manager before joining the public relations department.
"He worked on the conversion of phones from operator to direct dial, and people were not always happy about it," said his wife of 13 years, the former Elaine Rachinskas. "He was sent out to visit customers and explain the benefits of direct-dialing to those who objected to it."
J. Henry Butta, who retired as president of the telephone company in 1991, said, "Working as part of our audiovisual group, Doc handled all of our in-house taping and other special projects and produced lots of good work. He was a very congenial man who never frowned when I asked him to take on a project."
Mr. Butta described Mr. Hall as "a very pleasant guy to be around who was always full of energy."
Peter B. White, retired director of government relations for the phone company and now a lobbyist, said of Mr. Hall, "I was his boss for three years and knew him for 35, and he was certainly a happy-go-lucky type of guy. If someone asked him to do something, he found a way to do it.
"He performed many acts of kindness like helping me locate a film years ago for my daughter's birthday party. He was thoughtful like that. He was certainly well-liked throughout the company."
Born in Little Rock, Ark., Mr. Hall was raised in Oklahoma City. After graduation from high school in Oklahoma City, he worked for Braniff Airlines before enlisting in the Coast Guard the day after Pearl Harbor.
He served aboard LST-796 as a gunner in the South Pacific and participated in the invasion of Okinawa. He witnessed the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay in 1945 and worked on repatriation voyages of Korean prisoners of war.
"That's how he got the nickname of Doc," said Mrs. Hall, "because he helped the Korean women -- who were taken to Japan and used as slaves and prostitutes during the war -- deliver their babies on the voyage back."
Mrs. Hall said he was present at the Japanese surrender "after being elected by his ship's crew to be a representative of the ship and witnessed the signing straddling one of the Missouri's guns."
Mr. Hall enjoyed spending summers in Ocean City. He was a golfer and worked weekends as a wedding photographer.
"His life was defined by three things: honesty, integrity and charity," said Vince Greco, a photographer who described their nearly 40-year friendship as that of brothers. "He never knew the meaning of the word 'no.' "
Mr. Hall was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
A Mass of Christian burial was to be offered at 9 a.m. today at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, 8420 Belair Road, Fullerton, where he was a communicant.
Other survivors include four daughters, Robin Hamar of Washington, Denise Weaver of Colorado, and Diane Miles and Denise Greenwood, both of Perry Hall; and three sisters in Oklahoma. Memorial donations may be made to the Surgical Oncology Research Fund, Sinai Hospital, Department of Research, 8 Reservoir Circle, Baltimore 21208.