John J. Rodowsky, 72, teacher at state penitentiary

July 26, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

John J. Rodowsky, a teacher for 20 years in the education program at the Maryland Penitentiary, helping inmates earn their GED diplomas, died Saturday of kidney failure and cancer at his home in White Marsh. He was 72.

Mr. Rodowsky, who retired in 1989, taught earlier at several Baltimore parochial schools and Indian Mountain School, a private school in Lakeville, Conn.

What motivated him to teach at the prison was that "he simply wanted to help these men, and money wasn't important to my husband," said his wife, the former Joan Polillo. They met when they were students at St. John's College in Annapolis and married in 1964.

"He was a very good teacher because he encouraged interaction among the inmates and could understand and respect different points of view," said Patrick H. Loy. "I first met him 19 years ago when I came to Baltimore and taught with him at the penitentiary."

Mr. Loy said that Mr. Rodowsky was popular with his students and others because of his honesty.

"Jack was just fascinated with the world, and he was a very principled person who placed a great value on honesty. He was always saying that it was important not only to be honest to yourself but to others," Mr. Loy said.

Born and raised in East Baltimore, Mr. Rodowsky left Polytechnic Institute in 1941 when he was 17 and enlisted in the merchant marine during World War II. He served as an engineer aboard Liberty ships and safely completed 10 voyages in convoys that sailed the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

"He could not believe that he lived through the war and came home without a scratch. He often talked about ships in convoys being sunk all around him," Mr. Loy said.

Mr. Rodowsky, who earned a bachelor's degree in 1957 and a master's degree in education in 1965 from Loyola College, was a ship's engineer until 1962. He maintained an interest in Liberty ships and was among volunteers who restored the Liberty Ship John W. Brown, anchored in Baltimore Harbor.

Mr. Rodowsky, who briefly was a union organizer for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War and an advocate of civil rights.

He participated in the 1963 March on Washington and many of the anti-war marches of the 1960s.

"He was ahead of the curve for his generation regarding his stands on civil rights and the war. He questioned prejudice and was willing to take unpopular positions. He questioned the war long before it became fashionable to do so," Mr. Loy said.

Mr. Rodowsky became a Quaker in 1971 and joined Little Falls pTC Friends Meeting. He was a member of The Veterans for Peace and the Peace Tax Fund.

"He was a very courageous man and one of the greatest guys that I've ever met," said Herbert Hoopes, a resident of Broadmead retirement community in Cockeysville and a member Little Falls Friends Meeting.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Little Falls Friends Meeting House, Old Fallston and Reckord roads, Fallston.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Adam Rodowsky of White Marsh; a daughter, Zoe Rodowsky of Baltimore; three brothers, Paul Rodowsky of Rosedale, Joseph Rodowsky of Brick, N.J., and Daniel Rodowsky of Wilmington, Del.; and two sisters, Jean Hanson of Kaneohe, Hawaii and Joan Derwart of Orlando, Fla.

A son, Marcus S. Rodowsky, died last year.

Pub Date: 7/26/96

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