Arlo Dorff, 88, Beth Steel sign painter

January 05, 2004|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Arlo Dorff, a retired sign painter for Bethlehem Steel Corp. who liked to tinker and fix things, died Thursday of pneumonia at Franklin Square Hospital Center. He was 88 and lived in Rosedale for the past four years, after living in Ocean City and Overlea.

Mr. Dorff was born in Wheeling, W.Va. His father, a roller in the steel mills there, moved the family to Baltimore in the early 1920s upon going to work for Bethlehem Steel.

Mr. Dorff earned a vocational high school degree in Baltimore about 1935 and soon joined Bethlehem Steel, where he worked as a welder during World War II. For a time after the war, he was a technical illustrator for the Glenn L. Martin Co.

But he returned to Bethlehem Steel, where he spent most of his years working in the sign shop. He retired about 1970. Mr. Dorff liked to do the painting himself, and he also enjoyed drawing caricatures of people he knew.

After his retirement, he and his wife bought a chicken farm on the Eastern Shore, which failed, said the former Helen Barton, his wife of 66 years. She had owned several day care centers in the Baltimore area, where Mr. Dorff made himself handy and drove the van.

"He could fix anything," she said.

Mr. Dorff also had several inventions, most notably the not-very-successful "Flip Back Bathmat," a bathmat on a frame and springs that would flip back up against the side of the tub after use, she said.

Mr. Dorff, who played the saxophone in several bands as a young man, had an adventurous streak, she said. At 19, he went to Long Island, N.Y., to take a job with famed animal trapper Frank "Bring 'Em Back Alive" Buck, she said, but he gave up the elephants and pythons after about six months to return home to his young bride-to-be.

Mr. Dorff was a member of the First Church of God in Baltimore.

Services will be held at 9:30 a.m. today at Lassahn Funeral Home, 7401 Belair Road, Overlea.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by three sons, James Arlo Dorff and Raymond Lee Dorff, both of Baltimore, and Ronald Barton Dorff of Silver Spring; a daughter, Mary Jo Smith of Airville Pa.; 11 grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren. His son David Ross Dorff died in 2001.

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