Kenneth J. Deacon Sr., 89, historian

April 05, 2004|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

Kenneth Jerome Deacon Sr., a retired historian who worked three decades with the Army Corps of Engineers, died Friday of prostate cancer at his daughter's home in Catonsville. He was 89.

Dr. Deacon was a native of Cleveland who earned bachelor's and master's degrees in history at Case Western Reserve University. While on a trip to New York City, he met Johanna Auner at the public library. She was living in New York, but moved to Cleveland when the couple married in 1940.

Mrs. Deacon gave birth to their first child, daughter Jeanette Anders of Columbia, in 1942 shortly before Mr. Deacon began a three-year tour of duty with the Army that took him to the Mediterranean and Europe. By the end of World War II, the sergeant had received five stars signifying the battles in which he had fought.

When he returned from the war, he moved his growing family to Indianapolis, where he taught history at Butler University. He resigned to complete a doctoral degree in philosophy that he had begun at New York University before the war. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, he earned that degree in 1949.

Dr. Deacon and his family moved to Charles Village in Baltimore in 1951. He began a 30-year career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a historian, a job his daughter Jeanette Anders described as "intense research and scholarly writing for the historic record." It was a job her father approached with constant precision.

He wrote several historical texts, including Engineers in the Luzon Campaign of 1945 and The Army Engineers -- Pioneers of Nuclear Power. Mr. Deacon was a frequent contributor to the U.S. Army in World War II series and Military Engineer. He was a member of the Society of American Military Engineers.

He taught evening classes in history and political science at Western Maryland College in his early years in Baltimore. He spent most of his free time reading, taking care of his family and walking his dogs, who were his constant companions, said his daughters.

In 1971, Mrs. Anders said, President Richard M. Nixon sent her father to Vietnam as a military consultant to assess U.S. involvement in the war. Mrs. Anders said her father revealed his conclusions only to Nixon.

Mrs. Deacon died in 1996. Dr. Deacon spent his last years with his daughter Mary Deacon Opasik at her Catonsville home, with assistance from St. Agnes Hospice Care. While there he chronicled his family's life through a quarterly newsletter he sent out called "Grandpa's Gazette."

Services will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. John's Episcopal Church, 3009 Greenmount Ave., Baltimore.

In addition to his two daughters, Dr. Deacon is survived by another daughter, Madeleine Beard of Adelphi; a son, Kenneth Deacon Jr. of Hereford; nine grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

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