Ralph V. Mitzel, a retired Pennsylvania Railroad freight conductor and woodworker, died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - Lou Gehrig's disease - Wednesday at a daughter's home in Crestview, Fla. He was 88 and formerly a longtime Hampden resident.
Mr. Mitzel was born in Baltimore into a family of railroaders and raised on Keswick Road in Hampden. His father had been president of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, and an older brother had been a Pennsy passenger conductor.
Mr. Mitzel attended City College, and in 1933 was hired by the railroad. He worked on trains between Baltimore's Bayview Yard and Enola, Pa., and retired in 1976.
During the 1940s, Mr. Mitzel lived on a family farm in White Hall, Baltimore County, where he operated an egg business with his father and sister. In 1949, he moved to Hampden's Elm Avenue and remained there until moving to Crestview in 2001.
After injuring his foot while working on the railroad, Mr. Mitzel was recuperating at the old St. Joseph Hospital on Caroline Street when he met his future wife, Doris Mitzel, a distant cousin, and they were married in 1943. Mrs. Mitzel died last year.
Mr. Mitzel enjoyed crafting toys for children and Bible boxes used by members of Job's Daughters, a Masonic order for young women. He also made gavels that he gave to leaders of organizations and "silver dollar chests" that he gave to new brides.
He was a Mason and member of several lodges including the Scottish Rite of Baltimore.
At his request, no services will be held.
Surviving are four daughters, Freelove S. Sommers of Bridgeport, Neb., Vivian R. Mitzel of Hampden, Carolyn S. Landers of Thornton, Colo., and Joan L. Smith of Crestview; a brother, the Rev. Robert E. Mitzel of Catonsville; two sisters, W. Elizabeth Mitzel of Catonsville and Jane Davis of Silver Spring, Nev.; seven grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.