Joseph E. Armstrong, 98, educator and official with Western Electric

October 18, 2004|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN STAFF

Joseph Edward Armstrong, a retired Western Electric Co. department head and former Anne Arundel County educator, died of heart failure Tuesday at Charlestown Retirement Community, four days after his 98th birthday.

Born and raised in Annapolis, in a house on Franklin Street that his father had built, Mr. Armstrong was a 1923 graduate of Annapolis High School.

As a teenager, Mr. Armstrong played saxophone in a band with friends. They performed at tea dances at the Naval Academy, where his father taught mechanical drawing.

"He even played at his own prom," said his daughter, Linda Armstrong Farrar, a longtime Ellicott City resident who recently moved to Centreville.

While in high school, he worked as a congressional page and attended a yearlong page school program.

He earned a degree in French from Randolph-Macon College in 1927, then taught the language there for a year. He went on to earn a master's degree from Columbia University in 1929 and taught English as an exchange teacher at the Sorbonne in Paris, his daughter said.

When he returned from Paris, he sold books. He soon got a job at Glen Burnie High School, where he taught French and civics. He also was the yearbook adviser.

At Glen Burnie High, he met his future wife, Ruth Sartorius, who taught home economics. They married in 1937. Because of a policy that did not allow spouses to work at the same school, Mr. Armstrong was promoted to principal at Linthicum Junior High. Mrs. Armstrong died in 1990.

Feeding a lifelong interest in vehicle safety, he accepted an opportunity in the summer of 1937 to help the state introduce driver's education in the schools. Working with a state grant, he helped write the first state driver's education manual and developed the course, his daughter said.

In 1942, he took a job with Western Electric in Baltimore, but his work there was interrupted by World War II military service. He joined the Army in 1943 and served as a training officer based at Fort Bragg, N.C., and in Richmond, Va. He attained the rank of lieutenant.

After the war, he became chief of the Wage Practices Department at Western Electric. One of his last assignments involved rewriting the company's job descriptions nationwide.

After he retired in 1971, he became interested in bicycling. In 1977, he served on a state task force that wrote Maryland's bicycle safety laws. He rode his bike more than 10 miles a day until he was 80 years old and a stroke forced him to stop, his daughter said.

His enjoyed stamp collecting and photography, winning several local contests and having photos published in local newspapers.

He was a member of the Baltimore Bicycle Club and was a former president and member for more than 55 years of the Pikesville Lions Club. He was also a member of Sudbrook United Methodist Church in Pikesville and had served as president of its official board.

Services were held Friday at Charlestown.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include two granddaughters and four great-grandchildren.

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