Distefano, 77, whose pets enlivened his Baltimore home

C. M.

February 02, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Charles Milton Distefano was not one to allow a quiet day at his Southwest Baltimore home. When he wasn't doing carpentry, he was playing with his four children. When he wasn't playing with his children, he was playing with his pets.

And when he wasn't playing with his pets, the 10 goats, four ducks, a horse named Barney and the assorted rabbits and chickens that he kept in the back yard -- and often in his house -- they would cry for attention.

"He was one of the real characters ," said James Hirsch, who lives near Mr. Distefano's former home on Christian Street. "He was about as lively a person as you can find."

Friends and relatives said Mr. Distefano, 77, of Lebanon, Ohio, who died Monday after a car accident, had many interests and pursued them all earnestly. But his passions were pets and carpentry.

Almost daily, a din made by an electric saw, children screaming and a barnyard squabble emanated from Mr. Distefano's house.

Friends said everyone called him Mr. Peck although no one knows why.

"He's what made this neighborhood fun," Mr. Hirsch said. "Mr. Peck could just walk outside his door, and everything seemed to perk up a mite."

Mr. Distefano started collecting the animals in his rowhouse back yard in the 1940s and would offer free goat-drawn carriage rides to area children.

"I think the real reason he had the goats was to agitate my grandmother, his wife," said Patty Olwine of Baltimore. Mr. Distefano's granddaughter. "He just loved animals, but I don't think she liked them so much -- especially thegoats."

Perhaps one reason for her distaste was that it was usually her job to clean the yard where the pets grazed and lived in an elaborate house -- heated and carpeted -- that Mr. Distefano built.

"That shed was so nice a human being could easily live in there," said Patricia Distefano of Baltimore, his daughter. A native of Baltimore, Mr. Distefano was a crane operator at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad station in Southwest Baltimore from the early 1960s until about 1980. Before that, he was a union organizer for the AFL-CIO.

L He married Elaine Brown in 1939; they divorced in the 1960s.

In 1977, when city officials ruled he had too many pets that were not suited to city life, he moved near Lansdowne. In the mid-1980s, he moved to Ohio, where services were held yesterday. Other survivors include two sons, Charles Leroy Distefano of Pasadena and Kenneth Jerome Distefano of Baltimore; two daughters, Patricia Distefano and Elizabeth York, both of Baltimore; a brother, Robert Distefano of Baltimore; 14 grandchildren; and 21 great grandchildren.

Pub Date: 2/02/97

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