Donald F. Childs, 64, ran electrical firm, was lead singer for barbershop quartet

December 12, 1996|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Offstage, Donald F. Childs was a quiet man. But as a lead singer for a barbershop quartet, he loved to perform.

Mr. Childs, 64, who died Fridayof a heart attack at his Ellicott City home, had a clear, precise voice that colleagues said easily harmonized with other male voices.

Since about 1970, Mr. Childs, an electrician by trade, belonged to the Patapsco Valley Chapter of Heart of Maryland Chorus, a Catonsville-based organization of more than 100 singers of barbershop melodies. Several quartets have stemmed from the Heart of Maryland Chorus.

"He could hit the notes that a lot of lead singers couldn't hit," said a daughter, Maria Eakle, of Mount Airy. "When he wasn't singing, he was whistling."

With other members of the chorus, he entered many barbershop quartet competitions along the East Coast. His quartets choreographed their performances and always looked dapper, either in tuxedos or matching sport coats.

"We all enjoyed it," said Jack Waters, who sang with Mr. Childs for many years. "He wasn't outgoing, but he was just a good singer."

While in Ocean City for a competition, Mr. Childs and the members of his quartet went to a Phillips Restaurant and began singing during the meal for no reason other than to entertain other patrons.

A waitress said the kitchen help needed a little amusement, too, so Mr. Childs suggested they take the show to the cooks and dishwashers.

"We all went back there," Mr. Waters said. "They were all surprised and happy, and they just clapped and laughed."

Mr. Childs also had an unusual habit that was a frequent topic of discussion among fellow singers -- he would chew gum between songs. At a barbershop quartet competition many years ago, a judge noticed him chewing gum and penalized the quartet.

"The judge really reamed him for that," said Bill Norris, who sang with Mr. Childs for many years as a member of the Mellow Dynamics quartet. Mr. Childs "just laughed and said he thought no one saw it. We rode him for a quite a while about that."

Raised in southwest Baltimore, Mr. Childs graduated from Mount St. Joseph High School in the 1950s and completed a trade school where he learned to be an electrician.

He married Juanita Scaggs in the 1950s; she died in 1975. He married Estelle Dodson in 1977; she died in 1985.

Until his death, he operated Childs Electric Co., a one-man business that serviced the metropolitan area.

Although he worked long hours, his passion was barbershop singing.

Services were held Tuesday.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by five sons, Donald Marcus of Columbia, Robert Childs of London, John H. Childs III of Phillippi, W.Va., David J. Childs of Cockeysville and Derek J. Childs of Masontown, W.Va.; two other daughters, Angela Mason of Masontown, W.Va., and Diane Dodson of Ohio; a brother, John H. Childs Jr. of Pasadena; a sister, Frances Dolan of Pasadena; and 12 grandchildren.

Pub Date: 12/12/96

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