John E. "Gus" Deford Jr., a retired printing company owner, World War II veteran and former country club golf champion, died of asthmatic bronchitis Saturday at his longtime North Baltimore home. He was 88.
Born in Baltimore, he lived in nine different homes and apartments in the area before he was 18 - among them Greenwood, a residence his father built on Charles Street that is now the headquarters of the Baltimore County Board of Education.
"His childhood was a study in contrasts. His father liked to build new houses. They lived in the country and they lived in the city," said son John E. Deford III of Owings Mills. "I think this may be the reason that he and my mother lived in the same house on Mossway for a mere 47 years. He had had it."
Mr. Deford attended Calvert School and was a 1934 graduate of Gilman School. He earned a bachelor of arts degree at Princeton University.
He enlisted in the Army Air Forces and attained the rank of captain. He flew on numerous supply missions from England to France during World War II.
Family members said Mr. Deford flew alongside unmanned German buzz bombs. He had a good shooting eye and tried to shoot them down with a rifle or handgun because supply planes were not armed.
On one occasion, after landing at a makeshift airfield in France, he met Gen. George S. Patton.
After the war, he worked in commercial banking at the former Equitable Trust Co. and later opened Deford and Co. at Charles and 25th streets. He specialized in reprints of law books and genealogical works. He retired in 1989.
A member of the Elkridge Club, he won its golf championship in 1948 and was runner-up five times between 1941 and 1956.
"He was a man of old Baltimore and never liked to take I-83 or the Beltway," said his son. "He preferred the `long way' through the neighborhoods of the city."
Mr. Deford raised Hungarian hunting dogs known as Vizlas. He showed them at mid-Atlantic competitions and won numerous ribbons. He enjoyed hunting waterfowl and quail, pheasant and woodcock.
"He was known for his irreverent, mischievous streak," his son said. "On Christmas and New Year's, he liked setting off illegal home fireworks."
His wife of 51 years, the former Margaret Kelly Warner, was an artist and granddaughter of Dr. Howard A. Kelly, one of the four founders of Johns Hopkins Hospital. She died in 2003.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. today at Northminster Presbyterian Church, 705 Main St., Reisterstown.
In addition to his son, survivors include another son, Cooper Drewry Deford of Newton, Mass.; a sister, Agnes Deford Cohen of Charlottesville, Va.; and four grandchildren. A son, Michael Warner Deford, died in 1984.