John Stanley Barron, a retired Baltimore police lieutenant who favored old-fashioned foot patrol over cars and called The Block in its heyday his favorite beat, died Monday in his sleep at Oak Crest Village in Parkville. The former Southeast Baltimore resident was 92.
Mr. Barron retired from the police force in 1968, after 32 years serving in the Central and Southern districts.
Born John Baranowski in Baltimore, he grew up near Patterson Park as the oldest of seven children. He dreamed of becoming a surgeon, but his father's death forced him to drop out of high school at 16 to provide for his family. Because he considered not receiving a high school diploma "unfinished business," Mr. Barron earned his GED in his early 60s.
Mr. Barron - who had his name legally changed in 1948 - worked briefly as a gardener for the city parks department in the early 1930s, and joined the police force in 1936.
He was described by a family members as having a formidable presence, strong and standing more than 6 feet tall. "He preferred walking a beat to the squad cars that became more popular," said a nephew, Philip Szczepanski of Harford County. "He always wanted to get to know his people and the cops working under him, [and would say], `I can't get to know the neighborhood riding in a car.'"
Mr. Barron's first assignment landed him at Pratt and Light streets, where he directed motorists in the busy intersection from a traffic control kiosk.
On The Block, Mr. Barron became acquainted with Blaze Starr, the famous striptease artist, among other local personalities. "He was always proud to say they were good-looking girls and they were nice girls," Mr. Szczepanski said.
Mr. Barron became such a fixture on The Block that his daughter Cecilia R. Barron of Omaha, Neb., could remember hearing "bump-and-grind" music in the background when he would call home during a nightshift.
Mr. Szczepanski told of the time in 1956 when, at 16, he was working downtown as a newspaper copy boy and had to wait on Baltimore Street after 1 a.m. for the No. 20 bus to his Highlandtown home. With his uncle patrolling the neighborhood, the family never worried. "There were no fights, no shootings, no cop cars whizzing by. Maybe they were rowdy inside," Mr. Szczepanski said, "but the streets were safe."
In September 1965, Mr. Barron, then in the Southern District, was awarded the Police Department's Bronze Star for a role in the capture of three Maryland Penitentiary escapees.
From his days with the parks department, Mr. Barron became a lifelong gardening enthusiast. He developed an affinity for roses, and gave his daughter Cecilia the middle name Rose.
After moving to Oak Crest Village four years ago, Mr. Barron learned to use e-mail so he could keep up with his family living across the country and abroad. Despite the new technology, Mr. Barron remained old-fashioned in refusing to send the same electronic letter to more than one person. "Everyone had to get a personalized one," Mr. Szczepanski said. "He didn't want to know about shortcuts."
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. today in the chapel of Oak Crest Village, 8810 Walther Blvd., Parkville.
Mr. Barron also is survived by another daughter, Angela Barron McBride of Lafayette, Ind.; a brother, Edward Baranowski of Bel Air; two granddaughters; and two great-grandchildren. His wife, the former Mary Szczepanski, died in 1975.