Sol Ellenson, 84, grocer in Hampden for 21 years


Sol Ellenson, a well-known Hampden grocer for 21 years before he found his true calling as "a super senior citizen," died Saturday of a stroke and heart failure at Sinai Hospital. He was 84 and lived in Mount Washington.

In 1947, he opened Helen's Market in Dundalk, sold it two years later and started Keswick Food Market at 33rd Street and Keswick Road, which he operated until 1967.

People soon began going out of their way to read the weekly signs that Mr. Ellenson, a butcher, placed in his window extolling the quality of his meat, said his son, Bernard Ellenson of Tenafly, N.J.

His father's witticisms began appearing in "Mr. Peep's Diary," a feature of The Evening Sun from 1949 until 1967, and the signs led to appearances on local television during the 1950s.

In 1967, Mr. Ellenson sold his business and worked during the 1970s in sales before retiring.

"And that's when his real life began," his son said.

Mr. Ellenson started his day with exercise, including running two miles and walking two miles. He played golf.

He was active in Oheb Shalom Congregation, where he organized trips for the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Senior Men's Club and took part in other activities.

He joined the Maryland Hiking Club, whose members were supposed to plan a hike, recalled his son.

"He surprised them. He took them through the streets of Baltimore," the son said.

Mr. Ellenson also trained as a volunteer and led schoolchildren on hikes at Oregon Ridge nature center.

He was a 32rd degree Mason, Yetz Grotto and volunteered with several charities, including Meals on Wheels.

In a 1978 interview in The Sun, Mr. Ellenson spoke proudly of his part on a record called "Grow Older -- Feel Younger" by pianist Victor Borge, made for the National Association for Human Development.

He was exhilarated by his first six months as a guide at the Baltimore Museum of Art, telling how he had the children pose like the Degas dancer or act like an animal in a painting, all the while discussing perspective or texture.

"This has been a tremendous experience for me," Mr. Ellenson said in the interview. "I had never done anything like this in my life before. I didn't know I could do so well with children."

"His finest time of his life was when he retired and became a super senior citizen because at that point in his life he could enjoy life totally," Bernard Ellenson said of his father. "Concerts, plays, speeches, hiking -- he did it all."

The elder Mr. Ellenson, a Baltimore native, graduated in 1930 from City College but wasn't able to attend college -- "a real loss," said his son.

His father furthered his education by completing the 100 Great Books program, attending lectures at area colleges, joining book clubs and attending concerts.

He was a chief inspector of B-17 bombers at Glenn L. Martin Co. from 1940 to 1946.

Services will be at 2 p.m. today at Sol Levinson & Bros. Inc., 6010 Reisterstown Road.

He is survived by his wife, the former Annette Katzenstein, whom he married in 1939; a daughter, Donna Baker of Napperville, Ill.; two sisters, Bessie Willen and Evelyn Rudo, both of Baltimore; a brother, Harry Ellenson of Scottsdale, Ariz.; and four grandchildren.

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