James L. Papatonious, 53, Vietnam veteran, martial arts teacher

April 11, 2004|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

James Louis Papatonious, a martial arts teacher and former restaurant manager, died of cancer Tuesday at his Parkville home. He was 53.

The Baltimore native was raised in Highlandtown and in Broward County, Fla., where he attended high school. He enlisted in the Army in 1968 and was sent to Vietnam as part of a Special Forces unit of the 9th Cavalry Regiment. While in Southeast Asia, he continued to pursue an interest in martial arts that he developed as a teen-ager. After completing two tours in Vietnam, he lived in Florida for a decade and then relocated to Dundalk.

He then became a chef and helped manage the old Club Venus in Carney, a Howard Johnson's, a Burger King, a Taco Bell and a Popeye's in South Baltimore.

"He knew the restaurant business inside and out. He was a great cook," said his wife of nearly 17 years, the former Carol Louise Schreck. "He knew the restaurant business from the account books through the kitchen. He was a good caterer, too. He could cater for a hundred or a thousand."

About two years ago, he decided to make a job change and took correspondence courses to become a private investigator. He later worked for local agencies and had plans to open his own business.

Mr. Papatonious taught tae kwon do and Ed Parker's American Kenpo. He was known as "Grandmaster Jimmy" in the East Coast martial arts community. From 1994 to 2000, he owned and operated Jimmy's Martial Arts, a Parkville academy. He later taught students at a Woodhome Recreation Center on Moyer Avenue.

"He had a contagious enthusiasm. He never seemed to get down about anything," said David A. Elliott, a friend and student who lives in Perry Hall. "He was very loyal to his friends. He had a way of inspiring people to work harder and improve themselves. Grandmaster Jimmy was one of the toughest men I've ever met, but he was also a kind and generous soul."

He frequently attended martial arts seminars, competitions and hall of fame events throughout the East Coast.

Friends said a Jimmy Papatonious Spirit Award has been established. It will be awarded at a coming banquet.

"He was in a dozen martial arts halls of fame," said David Gosscup, a fellow martial arts teacher who lives in Dundalk. "He was an upbeat person who always asked what he could do for you. He was a legend in the martial arts community."

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

In addition to his wife, survivors include four daughters, Tiffany Rose Papatonious, Michele Ann Meyers and Nichole Louise Harle, all of Baltimore, and Athena Rose Papatonious of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; a brother, John Papatonious of Towson; and seven grandchildren. A previous marriage ended in divorce.

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