John Rock Jr., 77, GM worker who entertained as `Chessie'

October 30, 1999

John E. Rock Jr., who was known as "Chessie the Quality Crab" and represented Baltimore's General Motors plant in local parades and other public functions, died Tuesday of complications of Parkinson's disease at his Parkville home. He was 77.

Mr. Rock began working for General Motors Corp.'s Fisher Body plant on Broening Highway in 1946 as an assembly-line door-fitter. In 1983, he moved to the plant's public relations department, where his duties included dressing up in costume to entertain employees throughout the plant.

He dressed as Uncle Sam to advertise U.S. Savings Bonds and "Chessie" to promote quality workmanship. He also formed a country music band that entertained workers during lunch and later took the band to perform for patients at the former Montebello Rehabilitation Hospital.

His "Chessie the Quality Crab" marched in the Towson and Dundalk Fourth of July parades and appeared at Baltimore's National Aquarium on Pratt Street. In 1982, dressed as the cheerful crab, he led walkers across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge for the annual bridge walk.

For his many good works General Motors awarded him a gold medal for "Excellence in Community Service."

Born in Pittsburgh, Mr. Rock was reared in Baltimore, where he attended public schools until leaving in the sixth grade to support his family. He served with the Army in the Pacific during World War II.

As a teen-ager, he began dressing up to entertain family and friends, and he continued to portray Santa Claus until his death. His volunteer work included visits to Scout troops and patients in veterans hospitals.

Mr. Rock was a communicant of St. Ursula Roman Catholic Church, 8801 Harford Road in Parkville, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today.

He is survived by his wife of 47 years, the former Nancy Lee Snyder; three sons, John E. Rock III of Essex, Thomas M. Rock of Baltimore and Kevin P. Rock of Fullerton; four daughters, Patricia A. Rossi of Abingdon, Deborah L. Ellinger of Forest Hill, Valerie C. Rock of Baltimore and Kathleen M. Rock of Carney; four brothers, Roy Rock of Lancaster, Calif., William Rock and Charles Rock, both of Essex and Robert Rock of Springfield, W. Va.; three sisters, Dorothy Rock and Margaret A. Cowan, both of Essex, and Katherine Neenan of Hamilton; and seven grandchildren.

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