John T. Marron, 76, youth sports advocate

September 21, 1998|By Marego Athans | Marego Athans,SUN STAFF

John T. Marron, who spent most of his life nurturing young athletes, died Thursday on the eve of his 50th wedding anniversary as relatives and friends from as far as his native Ireland were en route to Dundalk for the celebration.

The Knights of Columbus hall, which was set for a golden anniversary party over the weekend, instead will be the site of a reception after the funeral today.

Mr. Marron, who worked for 22 years as a community director for the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks, died of a heart attack at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was 76.

He played a key role in launching Baltimore County's summer camp for disabled children and expanding the popular soccer program.

"He was an advocate for the programs that made people happy and allowed them to grow and be more active in society," said Charles Fisher, a longtime friend and former colleague.

The county named a new indoor-outdoor soccer facility after him in 1994.

"Baltimore County couldn't have named its new soccer facility at the North Point Government Center after a more deserving citizen than John T. Marron," a Sun columnist wrote at the time.

Born in Innisrush, County Derry, Ireland, Mr. Marron moved to Philadelphia as a teen-ager with his family, graduated from La Salle University and joined the Army after the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He attained the rank of captain and earned the Bronze Star for service in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, said his son, Kevin Marron of Parkville.

After the war, he married Mary Harkins of Philadelphia, also a native of Ireland.

He remained an Army captain at Fort Meade and Fort Holabird -- and served a stint in Germany -- but pursued his interest in athletics as coordinator of sports and boxing. He continued to coach and referee amateur boxing for decades -- even traveling to the former Soviet Union in 1988 for an international collegiate fight -- and was inducted into Maryland's Boxing Hall of Fame in 1985.

"He was a beautiful person," said professional boxing manager Mack Lewis, who became a close friend. "He was a real conservative person. He wasn't a loudmouth. He did what he was supposed to do."

After retiring from the Army in the mid-1950s, Mr. Marron worked briefly as an appliance salesman, then joined the county recreation and parks department.

In 1988, he had a staph infection that left him paralyzed, and he spent the past decade in a wheelchair. But he kept up his interest in sports and youths.

Among his other talents, Mr. Marron loved to debate, and he wrote a ballad, "The Hills of Home," which became a popular recording by Irish singer Vincent Gallagher.

Kevin Marron remembers his father counseling troubled children the family's home.

"It was always the young people he was interested in," Mary Marron said. "He used to say if you keep them busy with sports you won't have any trouble."

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Marron is survived by two other sons, John J. Marron of Baltimore and Denny Marron of Dundalk; four daughters, Maureen Shalowitz of Canton, Ohio, Kathleen Marron of Damascus, Eileen Marron of Dundalk and Noreen Tuder of Jacksonville, Fla.; two sisters, Bridget Mullan of Philadelphia and Anna Cooper of Randallstown; and 12 grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at St. Rita Roman Catholic Church, 2903 Dunleer Road in Dundalk.

Pub Date: 9/21/98

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