Anthony J. Ferrandi, 80, veteran who ran church-restoration firm

July 20, 2005|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Anthony Joseph Ferrandi, the retired owner of a church-restoration business and a decorated World War II veteran, died of a stroke Thursday at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Baltimore. The Hamilton resident was 80.

Born and raised in Baltimore, he lived adjacent to the old Pennsylvania Railroad's Pennsylvania Avenue passenger station, which closed more than 40 years ago. His father, Attilio, was a railroad employee who supervised the tracks in the West Baltimore tunnels.

Last year, Mr. Ferrandi told a reporter about standing alongside the platform as President Franklin D. Roosevelt's train came through. He could also recall the day of the inaugural run of large electric locomotives through the tunnel in the mid-1930s.

He was a graduate of the old Immaculate Conception parochial school at Mosher and Division streets and attended a semester each at Mount St. Joseph's and Forest Park high schools.

"Tony grew up in a tough section of Baltimore and learned the rules of life as street smarts. Before he was a teenager, he was working in the Lafayette Market selling hot dogs, and on Sunday he sold the Catholic newspaper in the Immaculate Conception Church for 5 cents. He earned 2 1/2 cents on each paper," said a son, Stephen J. Ferrandi of Owings Mills.

By the time he was 16, he had quit school and worked successive jobs as a spray painter in a Venetian blind factory, a steelworker at Eastern Stainless Steel and a boxer the old Goetz meatpacking plant on Sinclair Lane.

On his 18th birthday, he tried to enlist in the military. The Navy refused to accept him because he was colorblind and could not identify signal flags.

"The Navy recommended him to the Army, where his colorblindness was considered an asset," his son said. "His expert marksmanship combined with this colorblindness made him the perfect infantry scout" because his inability to see colors helped him distinguish shades, such as camouflage, from a distance.

Mr. Ferrandi fought battles on the Pacific atolls of Yap, Ulithi, Ngesebus and Angaur. He survived the two-month battle of Peleliu, an island 3 miles long and a mile wide.

"My father was one of just seven men in his company of 320 men to leave the island alive and unwounded," his son said.

Last summer, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. presented Mr. Ferrandi with the Bronze Star for military valor under combat at a State House ceremony.

After leaving the service, he returned home to Baltimore and struggled to find work. He found a job as a house painter and then as a cabinetmaker.

"In 1948, his best friend suggested that they sell lottery tickets as a way to make their fortune," his son said. "It was illegal. Very quickly, they had built one of the biggest numbers businesses in the city. All was going well until one day when he walked into a raid of a small corner grocery store near what is now Ravens Stadium."

Mr. Ferrandi was found guilty and with the help of a skillful attorney was sentenced to just three months in prison in Jessup. He later referred to this period as his "college years," family members said.

Upon his release, he enrolled in night school to learn bricklaying and got a job as a truck driver for Coca-Cola. He met his wife of 55 years, Virginia P. LaRosa, while delivering beverages. She survives him.

The couple later operated a small chain of restaurants that served factory workers in East Baltimore. The restaurants carried the name of Eddie's Break Time at Fleet and Caroline streets and Steve's Break Time on Highland Avenue, in honor of their sons.

Mr. Ferrandi became a masonry and concrete contractor, later a general contractor.

He focused his work on church restoration. Among his jobs were St. Mark's Lutheran in Charles Village, Emmanuel Episcopal in Mount Vernon, Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and Towson United Methodist Church.

"Although he never studied engineering, he could make scaffolding dance across slate roofs, cantilever out of bell towers and rise to the ceilings of great cathedrals with simplistic elegance," his son Stephen said.

At his 1996 retirement, Mr. Ferrandi estimated he had worked on 450 houses of worship in Baltimore, Washington and Wilmington, Del. The business was then known as Church Restoration Services.

A Mass was celebrated Monday at St. Leo's Roman Catholic Church, where he was a member.

In addition to his wife and son, survivors include another son, Edward M. Ferrandi of Jarrettsville; two daughters, Gina Marie Burke of Royal Palm Beach, Fla., and Georgina Ferrandi of Brooklyn, N.Y.; a brother, Robert Ferrandi of Kingsville; and four grandsons.

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