Daniel Callahan, 65, director of community group COIL

June 17, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Daniel Callahan, longtime executive director of the Southwest Baltimore community umbrella group, Communities Organized to Improve Life (COIL), died Wednesday after a heart attack. He was 65.

He began working as a senior teacher in the 1970s for COIL, a coalition providing free services to drug abusers, homebuyers and renovators, senior citizens and functional illiterates. He was named executive director in 1978.

Within COIL's boundaries are some of the city's poorest neighborhoods and such historic sites as the B&O Railroad Museum and the homes of H. L. Mencken, Babe Ruth and Edgar Allan Poe.

"He was truly a gentle man who shunned the limelight -- his humility was outstanding," said Joan Cooke, acting COIL executive director.

Mr. Callahan helped establish the Southwest Senior Center and the COIL Community Economic Development Corp. One of his projects that gained national attention was the Learning Bank, an adult literacy program that was praised by first lady Barbara Bush when she visited the center in 1989.

"He was always frustrated that we didn't have enough money to help, and there were, in his eyes, so many who needed help," Ms. Cooke said.

"He was brilliant, absolutely brilliant," said the Rev. Michael J. Roach, pastor of St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester and formerly pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Roman Catholic Church at Hollins and Poppleton streets in Baltimore.

"He lived where he worked. He didn't commute to it. He wasn't a time-server," Mr. Roach said. "He lived amongst the poor of Southwest Baltimore and saw and recognized their innate dignity."

Mr. Callahan enjoyed living in his North Carey Street rowhouse, where he liked cooking and maintaining a large vegetable and flower garden. He helped to organize a garden group that planted and took care of surrounding grounds of the B&O Railroad Museum and recently participated in the museum's spring cleanup.

Born and raised in Catonsville, he graduated from Loyola High School and attended St. Charles College in Catonsville. After taking additional theological studies in Rome, he was ordained a diocesan priest.

During the 1960s, he taught at Mount St. Agnes College and later taught in San Diego and at San Francisco State. He left the priesthood and returned to Baltimore when his father became ill.

"Nobody had a chance to say, 'Dan, you did a good job.' He never had any time to prop up his feet and look at the clouds roll by. Well, he's now getting the rest he never got in life," Ms. Cooke said.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at St. Peter the Apostle Church.

Survivors include a brother, James Callahan of Florida; and a sister, Barbara Williams of Greensboro, N.C.; a special friend, Jeffrey Covey of Baltimore; and many nieces and nephews.

Pub Date: 6/17/96

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