Joseph O. Danko Jr., chairman of Danko Arlington Inc., a family-owned Baltimore foundry and pattern and machine shop, and active parishioner of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, died of cancer Saturday at his Homeland residence. He was 78.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Forest Park, Mr. Danko was a 1944 graduate of Polytechnic Institute. He joined the Navy and was sent to study at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg in the service's V-12 accelerated officer training program. He attained the rank of lieutenant, remaining in the Navy until 1946.
After earning a bachelor's degree in 1948 in mechanical engineering from Cornell University, he joined his father, Joseph O. Danko Sr., an immigrant from Austria-Hungary, in the Danko Pattern and Manufacturing Co. he had established in 1920 at Light and Lee streets.
In 1945, the elder Mr. Danko expanded his business to include nonferrous castings and moved to Wabash Avenue, where the business continues to operate. He added a machine shop, and in 1956 added the Greenwood Engineering Co., manufacturer of corrugated box machinery.
All of the businesses were merged in 1960 to form the present company, which the son took over at his father's retirement in 1970.
Through the years, the company designed and produced precision aluminum and bronze parts for the Navy, Aberdeen Proving Ground and defense contractors including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Electric and Grumman Aerospace.
They also produced for Hughes Corp. a scale test model in the early 1970s of the Glomar Explorer, which was disguised as a mining vessel and designed to retrieve a sunken Russian submarine.
"My father had a passion for drafting and mechanical design and had the unique ability to produce what he envisioned. An engineer who has a foundry and machine shop is like a child in a candy store," said a son, John D. Danko of Glenelg, now president of the company.
"He was definitely hands-on and wanted to be involved with everything," said Daniel F. Lightner, the company's foundry supervisor for 14 years. "When he was in his 70s, he'd be up on the roof or busy fixing machinery. It was hard to keep him away from doing those things. And there was always a spark in his eye when he talked about his work."
He retired in 1993 but assumed the company's chairmanship.
Mr. Danko was a devout Roman Catholic who had been invested in 1990 in the Order of Malta - a Catholic organization that cares for the sick and needy - and was a charter parishioner at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. He served as a lector and member of the cathedral's maintenance committee for more than 40 years.
In 1970, he collaborated with his father on the design of a new main altar for the church so that priests could face the congregation in accordance with the teachings of Vatican II. The elder Mr. Danko carved the mahogany altar, which was donated to the church by his family. Other gifts included matching candlesticks, and cast bronze poor boxes and handrails.
"What he developed and produced was a beautiful, beautiful altar. He was active with both his talent and time," said Monsignor Robert A. Armstrong, rector of the cathedral, where a Mass of Christian burial was offered yesterday for Mr. Danko. "He was a very unassuming and gentle man who was a model of Christian life."
Mr. Danko is also survived by his wife of 45 years, the former Marie Annecheck; another son, Paul J. Danko of Towson; a daughter, Claire Danko Krause of Ellicott City; and seven grandchildren.