Albert F. Anft Jr., 81, steel salesman, veteran

March 01, 2004|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Albert F. Anft Jr., a retired steel salesman who drove the elderly to medical appointments and shopping trips, died Thursday of complications from cancer at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The former Hamilton resident was 81.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Federal Street, he attended the old St. Paul's Parochial School and was a 1941 Polytechnic Institute graduate.

In 1942, Mr. Anft enlisted in the Army Air Forces, where he served as a military photographer. He also spent time studying engineering at the Army Specialized Training Program at Fort Collins, Colo. While in the service, he began corresponding with the sister-in-law of his best Army buddy. Upon his discharge in 1946, he married the letter writer, the former Virginia Mae "Tink" Larsh. She died in 1997.

The couple briefly settled in Los Angeles, where Mr. Anft was a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. draftsman.

In 1949, the couple moved to Baltimore, and Mr. Anft earned a history degree at the Johns Hopkins University in 1952.

He was about to become a Baltimore County high school teacher but took over his father's job as a purchasing agent at A.K. Robins Co., a Lombard Street manufacturing firm.

While there, Mr. Anft and two colleagues noticed that bolts used to hold automobile license plates in place would often rust, making their removal difficult. He came up with the idea of stainless-steel screws and nuts.

"He and a couple of his friends figured out how to purchase and package them as license-plate bolts," said his son, Albert F. Anft III, who lives in White Hall. "It was a one-time success. His take was $850, and he bought a 3-year-old Chevy, which he drove for 8 1/2 years. Then he gave it to me. I managed to kill it in about a year."

Mr. Anft campaigned for 1956 Democratic presidential candidate Adlai E. Stevenson. He also spent his spare time making and refinishing furniture, then gave it to his children. He gardened each season at the family home on Bayonne Avenue.

"He was the kind of guy who could engage, even goad, people in conversations about politics," said another son, Michael Anft, a newspaper reporter and critic who lives in Towson. "Then, whether they disagreed with him or not, he'd be there to help them out, if they needed it."

Mr. Anft later was a steel salesman for U.S. Steel and the Addison Clarke & Brother plant on Eastern Avenue. Upon his retirement in 1985 from Durrett-Sheppard Steel in Eastwood, where he had worked for 14 years, Mr. Anft did odd jobs, mowing lawns and delivering bread, prescriptions and auto parts.

He also volunteered to drive nurses and other essential personnel to their hospital jobs during snowstorms.

After moving in 2001 from Hamilton to Aigburth Vale, a senior-citizens apartment building in Towson, he drove neighbors to supermarkets and medical appointments. He was also a disc jockey for a popular Monday night program of swing music.

A memorial service was held Saturday.

In addition to his sons, he is survived by a daughter, Mary E. Gott of Stewartstown, Pa.; a sister, Margaret Klingenstein of Timonium; and six grandchildren.

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