Leon Shapiro, 76, peace advocate, owned and managed local properties

July 05, 1998|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

After flying 35 missions over Europe as an Army Air Forces navigator in World War II, Leon Shapiro couldn't stop thinking about the bombs that fell from his planes.

Mr. Shapiro, a soft-spoken property owner and manager, spent the rest of his life working for peace. He died Tuesday of lymphoma at the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson, at age 76.

"It affected him terribly to think about what happened when the bombs fell," said his wife of 50 years, the former Marillyn Lesser. "Even though they were the enemy, he knew innocent people were being hurt."

Mr. Shapiro began his life on Hollins Street in West Baltimore, moving to Forest Park during his teens. After graduating from Forest Park High School, he attended the University of Maryland, College Park, intending to become a doctor. But he never finished college, instead signing up with the Army Air Forces to fight in the war. By the time he was discharged, with the rank of first lieutenant, he was the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters.

He returned to the university to study dentistry but soon went to work at Paul Shapiro and Sons with his brother, Morton, and their father, Paul, who owned and managed properties throughout West Baltimore.

Leon Shapiro retired last year from the company, which owns and manages more than 300 properties and is run by Morton Shapiro of Pikesville.

In 1969, Leon Shapiro founded Maryland Veterans for Peace to protest the war in Vietnam. He traveled to synagogues and churches, encouraging people to help end the war by writing to Congress and the editorial pages of newspapers.

Mr. Shapiro was a prolific writer of letters to The Sun and The Evening Sun. His last letter appeared in December. It urged support of those who seek peaceful solutions to international conflict.

He was active in the United Nations Association, the American Jewish Congress and the Property Owners Association of Greater Baltimore.

He loved playing tennis and traveling. He and his wife visited Israel, Japan, China and countries throughout South America and Europe. The couple lived in Columbia for the past 11 years.

Mr. Shapiro is also survived by a son, David Shapiro of Sonora, Calif.; two daughters, Paula Levin of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Jean Shapiro of Columbia; three sisters, Elsie Legum and Mildred Walker, both of Pikesville, and Faye Amster of Bethesda; three other brothers, Philip Shapiro of Kendall, Fla., and Edward Shapiro and Herbert Shapiro, both of Bethesda; and two step-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at noon today at the Witzke Funeral Home, 5555 Twin Knolls Road, Columbia.

Pub Date: 7/05/98

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