J. Jeffrey Gaydos, 42, owner of custom auto shopJ. Jeffrey...

July 08, 1996

J. Jeffrey Gaydos, 42, owner of custom auto shop

J. Jeffrey Gaydos, who built a car-customizing business after diabetes made it difficult for him to keep up his studies and derailed his hopes for a medical career, died Thursday of heart failure at Fallston General Hospital after complications from surgery.

Mr. Gaydos, 42, lived in Wyndemere Estates near Aberdeen.

Born in Baltimore, Mr. Gaydos was a 1971 graduate of Patterson High School, where he earned a national award in mathematics and won a scholarship to the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

He attended UMBC for only two years, said his mother, Gloria Gaydos of Baltimore. "He was going to be a medical doctor, but had to make do with other talents."

Six months later, he opened Jeff's Custom Auto in Essex, doing body repairs and customized painting.

During his college years, he had worked as a physician's assistant at Church Home and Hospital, his mother said, and some of the doctors became his first customers.

The business thrived, and Mr. Gaydos traveled with auto shows, winning awards for his creations. Fans' votes brought him honors at several auto shows, including at the old Baltimore Civic Center.

Hot Rod magazine featured two of his cars, including a modified 1967 Mustang, the "Djinn Phizz," which featured flames in three candy-apple colors on a red pearl base.

Even more elaborate was his bicentennial design for a white Pinto owned by Debra Ziegler -- whom he married 19 years ago. American flags unfurled down the sides, while the Statue of Liberty rose against a New York City skyline painted on the hood.

His used his business to involve children in a way that Oprah Winfrey reported on when she worked in Baltimore television, Gloria Gaydos said. "He would bring kids in and let them sand their bikes, and when they finished, he'd paint them."

Mr. Gaydos sold the business several years ago, but carried on his work with children on a smaller scale -- painting radio-controlled model airplanes, cars and trucks.

He also was a pioneer of youth soccer in Harford County. "He was a behind-the-scenes kind of guy," working to develop teams and set up tournaments, said Keith Van Eron, a retired Baltimore Blast player.

"Soccer is a better game in the area because of the work he's done."

He belonged to the Essex Chamber of Commerce and was president of the Key Club.

A mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at Our Lady of Fatima Church, 6200 Pratt St.

In addition to his wife and his mother, immediate survivors include two children, J. Jeffrey Gaydos Jr. and Debra M. Gaydos; his father, Joseph Gaydos of Baltimore; and a sister, M. Gloria Scheeler of Glen Burnie.

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