Peter J. Ladzinski Sr., 80, maritime lawyer who worked as ship's engineer

February 08, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Peter J. Ladzinski Sr., a retired maritime lawyer and former ship's engineer who was active in the affairs of the Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association, died of cancer Sunday at Fort Howard Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He was 80.

A resident of Graceland Park for more than 50 years, Mr. Ladzinski led a varied life on both land and sea.

Born on Lancaster Street and raised in Canton, he was a graduate of Holy Rosary School and later earned a GED certificate. After completing an internship at Spedden's Shipyard in Canton, he enrolled in the Merchant Marine Academy at King's Point, N.Y., and graduated in 1944.

He began sailing as an engineer on Liberty ships and other types of vessels during the waning days of World War II. He continued to serve aboard ships until retiring in 1972.

"He was a good engineer and a full-fledged machinist. Anyone who had completed an internship at Spedden's, which was the best shipyard in Baltimore, was told to put down their toolbox and come to work," said Charles F. "Blackie" Blockston of Rosedale, a retired ship's engineer and longtime friend.

In between voyages, Mr. Ladzinski continued his education, first graduating from the Maryland Institute in 1949 and earning his law degree from the old Eastern College of Law, now part of the University of Baltimore Law School, in 1959.

He was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1960 and maintained a private maritime law practice in Baltimore in the early 1960s. He also worked for several years as an attorney for Legal Aid Bureau Inc.

"He was a very private, quiet person but was the kind of man who wanted to help people, and he'd give anyone the shirt off his back," said a daughter, Pamela J. Helmsetter of Perry Hall. "He taught his children and grandchildren to never pass the beggar."

Mr. Ladzinski was an active member of the Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association, a union of licensed ship's engineers.

"He was an advocate for retirees' issues," said William K. Van Loo, MEBA branch agent in Baltimore. "He was persistent in his beliefs, almost dogmatic, and was driven by a big heart. If there was an issue that he was interested in, he really went after it. However, even when you debated with him, you always came away friends."

For the past five years, Mr. Ladzinski was a substitute teacher at Dundalk Senior High School, where he was known as "Mr. Pete" by the faculty and students.

"Mr. Pete was always available to us and he'd come at the drop of a hat. Sometimes he had to walk to school, but he was always ready, willing and able to help us out," said Marie A. Greer, administrative secretary and office manager at the school. "The kids loved him. He'd tell them stories about the war, the sea and the way things used to be. Being with kids was important to him."

An avid gardener, Mr. Ladzinski enjoyed planting vegetables and caring for his cherry, pear and plum trees.

He was a communicant of Sacred Heart of Mary Roman Catholic in Dundalk, where a Mass of Christian burial was offered Wednesday.

He is survived by a son, Peter J. Ladzinski Jr. of Essex; another daughter, Janine A. Ladzinski of Columbia; two brothers, Joseph Ladzinski of Dundalk and Michael Ladzinski of Bel Air; and four grandchildren.

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