Bernard Armstrong Sr., 89, officer in city branch of the Federal Reserve

July 19, 2000|By Mark Ribbing | Mark Ribbing,SUN STAFF

Bernard Francis Armstrong Sr., a former vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank's Baltimore branch, died in his sleep Thursday at home in Towson. He was 89.

In 1925, at the age of 14, he began as a messenger for the Federal Reserve. Sixty years later, he was helping investigate the Maryland's savings and loan scandal that foreshadowed the national savings and loan debacle.

Mr. Armstrong was born in Parkville, one of 12 children. In the early 1920s, he was a batboy for the Baltimore Orioles of the International League.

One day, he was asked by visiting Yankee great and fellow Baltimorean Babe Ruth to fetch some chewing tobacco. When he came back, the Bambino flipped him a quarter and said, "Here, kid, keep this."

Mr. Armstrong kept the 1906 coin for the rest of his life.

He graduated from City College in 1929 and went on to the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Baltimore, where he received an undergraduate degree in accounting.

He went to graduate school at Rutgers University, where he studied banking.

He married Marie Therese Mitchell, a fellow Federal Reserve employee, in 1936. She died in 1974.

In 1942, Mr. Armstrong began serving in the Naval Reserve in the Atlantic during World War II. The next year, he joined the Merchant Marine, where he remained until the war ended. Like many other men of his generation, he told family members very little about his wartime experiences.

"He was a very faithful, loyal, and devoted person," said a granddaughter, Elizabeth Armstrong Weiss of Ann Arbor, Mich. "[He] was an extremely modest man and didn't talk much about his accomplishments."

Mr. Armstrong retired from the Federal Reserve in 1974. Six months later, he went to work for the state of Maryland as a bank examiner, remaining in the post for the rest of his life. In 1995, he was named state government's nonmanagerial employee of the year.

Mr. Armstrong had been president of the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Banking. He was a member of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.

Mr. Armstrong's love of professional sports continued long after his batboy days were over; he had season tickets for the Colts until they left town and for the Orioles until his death. He was an aficionado of Berger's cookies, and sent the Baltimore treats to friends all over the world.

He was a member of the Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception in Towson, where a Mass of Christian burial was offered Monday.

Mr. Armstrong is survived by a son, Bernard Francis Armstrong Jr. of Greenwich, Conn.; a daughter, Catherine Eileen Armstrong of Towson; a brother, Edward Armstrong of Parkville; a sister, Dorothy Armstrong Limmer of Parkville; three grandsons; five granddaughters; and three great-grandchildren.

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