Francis Pramschufer Jr., 82, engineer, teacher

January 31, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Francis Pramschufer Jr., a leader in Maryland's German-American community for more than 50 years and a founder of Baltimore's Oktoberfest, died Jan. 24 of bone cancer at his Hamilton residence. He was 82.

A tall man, Mr. Pramschufer was easily recognizable at the annual Oktoberfest held at the 5th Regiment Armory, or the German Festival in Baltimore's Carroll Park. He would dress in a pair of lederhosen, a white shirt with a dark green embroidered tie and a forest-green Tyrolean hat. His face was highlighted by a dark, carefully trimmed mustache and a wide smile.

Throughout his life, he played an important role in the many local organizations that celebrate German heritage and culture.

"He was a very gregarious man, ... and he was always ready to help with projects, either with his voice or his hands," said Robert Sheppard of Catonsville, president of the Deutschamerikanischer Buergerverein Von Maryland, an umbrella group of 18 German-American organizations.

"He was always the first to volunteer to host a party in his home when German naval vessels visited Baltimore," Mr. Sheppard said. "And one of his favorite things was taking his Swiss Saint Bernard and hooking it to a cart and pulling children around the Oktoberfest in the 5th Regiment Armory. He did it for years."

In 1968, Mr. Pramschufer helped found the Maryland Oktoberfest and was president of the annual event for 20 years. The celebration marks the 1810 royal Bavarian marriage of King Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Austria.

Mr. Pramschufer also designed the "fruchtsaal," the traditional tall column bearing fruit that graced the lobby of the armory.

"He tried to copy what is done in Munich, and decorating it is a lot of work," said Mr. Sheppard.

Mr. Pramschufer was the last president of the Deutches Haus, a longtime meeting place for German societies and immigrants until its closing in 1972. Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall was built on the site.

At his death, he was a member, lifetime director and past vice president of the German Society of Maryland, which was founded in the late 1700s.

He also belonged to the Deutschamerikanischer Buergerverein Von Maryland; Club Fidelitas, a German-American social organization; the Baltimore Kickers Inc.; Edelweiss Club; and German Radio Klub.

Mr. Pramschufer was born in Locust Point, where his paternal grandparents settled in 1886, and his maternal grandparents, who came from Westphalia, in 1887. At that time, Baltimore was a major gateway to America for German immigrants.

He was a 1936 graduate of Polytechnic Institute and received an engineering degree from the University of Maryland, College Park.

During World War II, he served in the Navy.

After the war, he joined the Glenn L. Martin Co. in Middle River, and eventually worked on the Gemini space program. In 1969, he left Martin and became a special education teacher at Carver Vocational-Technical High School in Baltimore. He retired in 1984.

He enjoyed traveling to Bavaria and was a member of Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church.

A memorial service will be held at 6 p.m. tomorrow at Zion Lutheran Church in City Hall Plaza.

A son, Francis Pramschufer III, died in 1970.

He is survived by his wife of 26 years, the former Mary Ellen Martz; a son, Alfred Pramschufer of Alta Loma, Calif.; two sisters, Doris Davis of Baltimore and Audrey Listerman of Birmingham, Ala.; three grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

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