Maurice L. Elliott, 88, attorney and Christmas tree farm owner

December 23, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Maurice Leonard Elliott, a retired real estate attorney who raised Christmas trees on a Baltimore County farm, died of an apparent heart attack Sunday at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The Sparks resident was 88.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Old York Road, he was a 1934 graduate of City College. As a teen he worked at his family's Stoneleigh grocery store, Williamson's, to help pay law school tuition; he graduated from the University of Baltimore, in 1938.

Mr. Elliott did legal work for several years at Commercial Credit Corp. before joining the Army in 1942. A military police officer, he became a security intelligence agent, observing activities at U.S. steel mills and defense plants to guard against sabotage or espionage.

"He would sit in a car and observe a Pittsburgh steel mill at night," said his son, Roger L. Elliott of Sparks. "It was tedious work, and that was where he learned to smoke cigars. He smoked until about 13 years ago."

After his 1946 discharge, he was admitted to the Maryland Bar and was hired as an attorney by Maryland Title Guarantee Co.

In 1950, he opened a law practice in the Fidelity Building in downtown Baltimore. Early in his career, he shared space with attorney Zanvyl Krieger, who became an owner of the Colts and Orioles as well as of the former Lord Baltimore Hotel.

Mr. Elliott specialized in real estate matters until his 1996 retirement. He was also a board member of the Druid Hill Federal Savings and Loan Association.

In 1973, after many years in Rodgers Forge, Mr. Elliott fulfilled a long-held ambition to buy a Baltimore County farm. With others, he purchased the 200-acre Ventura Farm on Falls Road in Upperco-Sparks. His first winter there, customers knocked on his door to seek permission to cut down wild evergreen trees on the property, as they had done in previous winters.

"He started selling them for $5 apiece, and it soon dawned on him that Christmas trees would be a good farming project. He had always wanted a farm, but what he'd do with it never crystallized," Roger Elliott said. "Over the past 30 years, he and his partner planted thousands and thousands of trees."

Mr. Elliott bought a used 1966 John Deere tractor and started pulling up the wild roses that had overtaken the farm. He then planted Norway spruce, Douglas fir and Colorado blue spruce trees.

Family members said that because he got in the tree business 30 years ago, Mr. Elliott had mature Christmas trees that would be too large for a traditional home. In recent years, he supplied two extra-tall trees for the Russian embassy in Washington -- one for the traditional Christmas, the other for the later Russian Orthodox observance -- and also provided trees for churches and shopping malls.

"He was excellent with people, a thoughtful person who was generous with everyone he ever knew," said Alvin "Bob" Jewell, a longtime friend and former Baltimore County farm owner. "He always wanted to have a place in the farm country. He built Ventura up, and he had it well-equipped, with four or five big tractors."

Mr. Elliott was a member of the Maryland Christmas Tree Growers Association.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the Lemmon Funeral Home, 10 W. Padonia Road, Timonium.

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 60 years, the former Doris Luray Tawney; another son, Dr. Charles Gregory Elliott of Salt Lake City; and five grandchildren.

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