James H. Fritz, 78, mechanical engineer

January 15, 2001|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

James H. Fritz, a mechanical engineer who designed military aircraft at the Glenn L. Martin Co. and worked on the restoration of Baltimore's City Hall dome, died Thursday of lymphoma at his home in Middle River. He was 78.

Mr. Fritz, a World War II veteran, was a past grand master of the Maryland Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

The native of Idetown, Pa., married Lois Ruth Nitz in 1942. The next year, they moved to Middle River, where he worked for Martin as an airplane electrician, mechanical engineer and manufacturing coordinator.

He worked on the B-26 bomber and other aircraft, said his daughter, Barbara Shepherd of Kingsville.

His employment at Martin was interrupted by service in the Army Air Forces during World War II. He was a radio operator and mechanical gunner on a B-29 bomber and was discharged with the rank of sergeant, his daughter said.

In June, Mr. Fritz attended the homecoming ceremony for an aircraft he had worked on, the Martin 404 Mainliner, which was donated to the Martin Museum.

"It was very emotional. He was so glad to be there and be part of it, and to have a chance to talk to some other former Martin employees," Mrs. Shepherd said.

In 1975 and 1976, he worked for Calvert General Contractors, helping restore the dome of City Hall.

George Moretz, a friend who helped him get the City Hall job, said Mr. Fritz was responsible for marking more than 1,000 pieces of the dome so it could be reconstructed.

"We took the shell of the dome down and took it to a yard on Clinton Street. Mr. Fritz was responsible for marking the pieces - like a jigsaw puzzle - so other people could put it back together," said Mr. Moretz of Baltimore.

Mr. Fritz had been president of the Chi Chapter of the International Fraternity of Delta Sigma Pi.

For 45 years, he was a member of the Order of Odd Fellows Memorial Lodge No. 44 and served as grand master in 1965 and 1966.

He was grand lodge secretary from 1968 to 1973 and was in charge of maintaining the lodge's building on Cathedral Street in Baltimore, Mr. Moretz said.

Shirley Sell, who knew Mr. Fritz through his charitable work with the Odd Fellows, recalled how he came to her home 30 years ago when she was widowed at age 29.

"I lost my husband and was expecting my first child. Mr. Fritz showed up at my door and asked me what I needed," she said, adding that he was "a very kind person, a gentleman. He was very modest."

Mr. Fritz enjoyed playing piano and studying his family's genealogy, his daughter said.

A memorial service for Mr. Fritz will be held at 8 p.m. today at Brudzinski Funeral Home, 1407 Old Eastern Ave., Essex.

In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by two other daughters, Marilyn Reid of Westminster and Dorothy Nettles of Catonsville; two brothers, Allen Fritz of Dundalk and Lawrence Fritz of Falls Church, Va.; three sisters, Edna Shortkroff of Wynnewood, Pa., Hildreth Kanon of Nanticoke, Pa., and Dorothy Fritz of Deacon, N.Y.; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

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