Charles Castoro, 101, longtime area homebuilder

March 04, 2000|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Charles Castoro, a homebuilder who was still climbing ladders at age 100, died Tuesday of heart failure at the Towson home of his granddaughter. He was 101 and had lived in Homeland.

Though retired from a long career of building homes in Beverly Hills, Baynesville and Homeland, Mr. Castoro got out a ladder last year and climbed atop the roof of his home to inspect its slates.

"He remained in great physical shape," said Thomas J. Iacoboni, president of the Appian Society, a cultural and charitable group that Mr. Castoro helped found. "He was personable, outgoing and he never forgot his roots."

He attributed his health and longevity to his faith in God and doses of vinegar and garlic.

Born in the Sicilian province of Enna, he was trained as a barber and a stonecutter. He was taken prisoner while serving in the Italian army during World War I and spent 13 months in a prison camp in the Balkans.

After the war, he decided to move to the United States and sailed to New York in 1920.

"He never forgot his first sight of the Statue of Liberty," said his daughter, Dr. Vira J. Froehlinger of Towson.

He moved to Baltimore and opened a barber shop at 3204 Eastern Ave. in Highlandtown.

In the 1940s, he erected a group of homes on Walther and Overland avenues in the Beverly Hills section of Northeast Baltimore. He later built the Glendale area of Baltimore County near Taylor Avenue. He moved on to Hollen Road in North Baltimore and also designed and built homes in Anneslie.

His last homes were in North Homeland -- the area around Churchwardens Road -- which he developed beginning in the 1950s. He also had other commercial real estate in East Baltimore and along York Road.

"He put some of his soul in every house he built," his daughter said.

He appeared at work sites dressed in a white shirt and tie and directed his foremen and workers. He retired from the construction business at age 88 but remained active.

On his 100th birthday, members of the choir at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, where he had been an usher since the church opened, sang "Happy Birthday" in four-part harmony. He was then given a long ovation by the congregation.

He was married for 68 years to Carmela Costanza, who died in 1991.

A Mass will be offered today at 11 a.m. at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5300 N. Charles St.

He is also survived by a son, Joseph R. Castoro of Savannah, Ga.; a sister, Giovanna Fazio Castoro of Enna, Italy; eight grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.

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