Arthur H. Katz, 83, Hagerstown activist, restaurant owner

September 26, 2000|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

Arthur H. Katz, a Hagerstown civic activist and owner of several Western Maryland and Pennsylvania restaurants, died Friday of a heart attack at a hospital in Lebanon, Pa. He was 83.

A Baltimore native, Mr. Katz grew up in Reservoir Hill and Park Heights. He opened his first restaurant, the White Coffee Pot, in 1958 in Hagerstown, where he and his wife became active in the Boy Scouts, Big Brothers and Sisters, and other charitable organizations.

"He was always leading the parade to raise funds," said Jack Costa, a longtime friend.

Called "Otts" by family and friends, Mr. Katz was known as a practical joker who once arrived at a niece's party by helicopter in a flight suit and goggles. Another time he offered an old, broken-down school bus to carry incredulous relatives to Thanksgiving dinner. He had a new bus waiting a few blocks away to take his Baltimore family to dinner in Hagerstown, said a nephew, Robert Smelkinson of Baltimore.

After serving in the Army Air Forces in World War II, Mr. Katz worked during the 1940s for his older brothers, Myles and Jerome Katz, who founded the White Coffee Pot restaurant chain in Baltimore.

After moving to Hagerstown and opening his White Coffee Pot, he started five other restaurants, including a Horn & Horn in Cumberland and in Lebanon.

Mr. Katz and his wife of 54 years, the former Hilda Stern, were active in Washington County civic life. He was a past president of the Board of Directors of the Mason Dixon Council of the Boy Scouts of America and past president of the Board of Big Brothers and Sisters of Washington County.

"He was a community activist in every sense of the word," said Mr. Costa.

He said Mr. Katz once "built a canteen truck to offer refreshments to police and firefighters in emergencies. One time, he caught a bank robber because he had one of the first [car] phones."

Mr. Katz and his wife co-chaired a Boy Scouts anniversary show that featured a Marine Drum and Bugle Corps and they fed the Marines at one of his restaurants, said Mr. Costa.

Mr. Katz did volunteer work in Maryland's prison in Hagerstown, counseling Jewish prisoners.

"He came from a poor background and had empathy for them," said Mr. Costa.

Mr. Katz and his wife received the Big Brothers and Sisters outstanding citizens of the year award for Maryland and the District of Columbia.

They also co-chaired the founding of the Childrens Village of Washington County and served on the board of CASA Inc., an organization for battered women.

The couple retired in 1988 to North Miami Beach, Fla. Mrs. Katz survives him.

Services were held yesterday in Hagerstown.

Mr. Katz also is survived by a son, Henry C. Katz of Baltimore; a daughter, Ellen K. Lynn of Lebanon; and two grandchildren.

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