Charles P. Stokes Sr., 64, statistical analyst for U.S. Postal Service

August 01, 2002|By Johnathon E. Briggs and Jacques Kelly | Johnathon E. Briggs and Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Charles P. Stokes Sr. never let childhood polio get in his way.

Despite being left with one leg shorter than the other, he became one of the first African-American lifeguards at Baltimore's Cherry Hill swimming pool.

As a young man, underweight for a job he wanted at the post office - the good job he wanted to have before getting married - he ate several pounds of bananas a day, for a month, to pass the medical requirements.

He was a self-made man - a retired U.S. Postal Service statistical analyst, a real estate salesman, an artist, active in Roman Catholic church affairs and patriarch of a large family on the city's west side - when he died Monday at Bon Secours Hospital, after a heart attack at his Arlington Avenue rowhouse. He was 64.

"He was a man of wisdom," said a daughter, Thomasine L. Wells. "Anyone - the neighbors, family members - would always come to him for advice. He had a way of showing you your self-worth, regardless of what your state was."

A city native raised in Cherry Hill, he was a 1956 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School. He earned an associate's degree in business administration from what is now Baltimore City Community College.

His first job with the post office was data collection technician. He retired as an analyst in 1992 from the main downtown post office, after 32 years with the agency. He also sold real estate for Otis Warren & Co.

A lifelong Catholic, Mr. Stokes served on many church boards and helped establish youth groups and mentoring programs at St. Bernardine parish on Edmondson Avenue. He also taught religious education and was one of the parish's lay incorporators.

"He was very committed to the Catholic Church," said his pastor, the Rev. Edward M. Miller of St. Bernardine's. "He was a determined man. His childhood polio in no way stopped him from doing anything he wanted to do."

"He was an upstanding citizen - a model to young adults," said Deborah K. Gee, a family friend who lives in Edmondson Village. "He always believed if you were willing to do the work, you could accomplish anything. He never cut corners or went the easy way."

Mr. Stokes was also an oil painter whose impressionistic works have been featured at the Catholic Center Gallery in downtown Baltimore. Two of his works - Jesus of Divine Mercy and Jesus of Compassion - are permanently displayed at St. Bernardine.

His life was not without tragedy. A son, Milton Stokes, one of his 13 children, was in seminary preparing for the priesthood when he was fatally shot in West Baltimore while walking home from church in 1979.

In a highly publicized case, a grandson, Dontee D. Stokes, is charged with the shooting this year of a priest, the Rev. Maurice J. Blackwell, who was alleged to have abused him as a teen-ager. Daughter Charline Stokes said she saw her father's health decline in May after his grandson, her nephew, was arrested and charged in the May 13 shooting.

A viewing will held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. today at Vaughn C. Greene Funeral Home, 5151 Baltimore National Pike. A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at St. Bernardine, 3812 Edmondson Ave.

Surviving, in addition to the two daughters, are his wife of 43 years, the former Bertha Conway; five other daughters, Tamara Morrison, Agnes Coleman, Nadine Bailey, Monica Stokes and Carmelita Stokes; five sons, Wallace Nelson, Charles P. Stokes Jr., Terry Stokes, Calvin Stokes and Tyrone Stokes; three brothers, Herbert, James and Paul Stokes; and two sisters, Peggy Ann Bailey and Carmelita Mixon. All are of Baltimore.

He is also survived by 47 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

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