To Gerson F. Kroiz, nothing was more important than family. In the summer of 1978, Mr. Kroiz made headlines by kidnapping his three children in the midst of a custody dispute because he feared he would lose them. He died Friday at age 60 of pancreatic cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Mr. Kroiz was one of the first people arrested under Maryland's law to prevent feuding parents from abducting children. The law went into effect July 1, 1978. He later established a cordial relationship with his ex-wife.
"He was fighting for his kids," said his daughter, Shana Kroiz-Seidel, 32, of Baltimore, who recalled the five-week abduction that involved a trip through Virginia, Georgia and Alabama. She was 11 at the time. Her brothers, Gabriel and Reuben, were 13 and 8.
"It was horrible for my mother, but what he said to us was he never wanted us to think he abandoned us," Ms. Kroiz-Seidel said. "He didn't think he would get to keep us."
Mr. Kroiz was arrested in Greenville, Ala., after a police officer checked his van's license plates.
Gabriel Kroiz said his father told him of the abduction plan before it took place. "I see it as an event which demonstrates about my father his intense commitment to us at all costs, and that he was willing to break with convention and do what he knew in his heart was right," he said.
Through the years, Ms. Kroiz-Seidel said, her father proved time and time again he would always be there.
"His center of life was his immediate family," she said. "When I lived in New York and I got sick, he was there. He went to every party I've ever had, and he was always the last to leave."
On Saturday afternoon, Ms. Kroiz-Seidel said she felt her father would be watching her most significant celebration: her wedding, scheduled for that evening.
Though Mr. Kroiz was diagnosed with cancer three weeks ago, he urged his daughter to go ahead with the ceremony.
"He wanted me to have a wonderful wedding," she said from her hotel room at the Clarion, where she prepared to put on the dress her father had helped choose.
"I feel like he died on the eve of my wedding so we could go on with the wedding without him sitting in the hospital. This way, he's with us."
Mr. Kroiz enjoyed working with his hands, and crafted loft beds for each of his children. Later, he made them kitchen cabinets. He also gave them a love of art: Ms. Kroiz-Seidel is a jeweler who made the rings for her wedding, Gabriel Kroiz, 34, is an architect-builder and Reuben Kroiz, 29, draws and sculpts.
Mr. Kroiz was born in Philadelphia but moved to Baltimore at age 7.
He graduated from Boston University with a history degree in 1961 before becoming a property manager for his father's residential rental rowhouses in South Baltimore.
At the time of his death, he was a Pikesville resident.
Mr. Kroiz's companion of 10 years, Marie Francoise Mastey, said his interest in spirituality and philosophy lent him a thoughtful, all-knowing air: "He was capable of giving the solution for every situation.
"He's a great family man, which is absolutely what impressed me about him," she said.
Services were held Friday.
Other survivors include his parents, Sarah and Samuel Kroiz of Baltimore; and two brothers, Stanley Kroiz of Baltimore and Louis Kroiz of Lovettsville, Va.
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