Harold Greenwald, a former longtime history teacher at City College and avid theater buff, died of coronary artery disease Thursday at his Pikesville home. He was 94.
Despite years of debilitating health problems, Mr. Greenwald remained active and fully engaged in the "business of life" until the last couple of months.
"Dad really lived Dylan Thomas' advice in his poem `Do not go gentle into that good night,'" said a daughter, Judy Mehlman of Pikesville.
"We are convinced that it was Dad's unquenchable passion for life that kept him going these past few years despite many health crises. I can't imagine no longer rushing to the phone to discuss the latest current event, to tell him about his grandsons' activities or to share an anecdote about his great-grandchildren," she said.
Born in Amsterdam, N.Y., the fifth of six children of Russian Jewish immigrants (one of his bragging rights and favorite topics of conversation was that actor Kirk Douglas was his first cousin), Mr. Greenwald's family moved to Baltimore in 1920, and he spent the rest of his life here.
He graduated in 1928 from City College and earned his bachelor's degree from the Johns Hopkins University in 1932.
"He was the first person in his family to attend college," Mrs. Mehlman said.
In 1936, Mr. Greenwald began teaching history at City College, where he was revered by both faculty and students.
"Dad was a real legend at City. He rarely went anywhere without being accosted by an enthusiastic former student or admirer," said another daughter, Senna Greenwald of Rockville. "The affection with which he was regarded was evidenced by the many invitations he received to City reunions, events that he loved. He was always very proud of his association with City College, and his induction into their Hall of Fame was one of his happiest moments."
"Mr. Greenwald was loved by generations of students. He was an uplifting man with a great smile and a steady demeanor," said former Baltimore mayor and City College graduate Kurt L. Schmoke. "He was an outstanding teacher and senior adviser-without-portfolio. Students at City were affected by him in a very productive way."
He retired in 1971. In addition to his love of teaching, Mr. Greenwald was also a theater buff and with his wife of 66 years, the former Lillian Schofer, he attended performances at virtually every theater in the area.
His love of theater began when he was 13 years old, when an older sister took him to see his first Broadway show, Charlot's Revue of 1924, which featured for the first time on the American stage Gertrude Lawrence, Beatrice Lillie and Jack Buchanan.
"I was never happier than perched high in the cheapest seats in the house on a Wednesday or Saturday matinee, at the old Ford's, Auditorium, Maryland or Academy of Music theaters," Mr. Greenwald wrote in an unpublished memoir.
"Back in those days, you could sit in the second balcony, a seventh heaven peanut gallery, for as little as 25 or 50 cents, and see such stars as Katherine Cornell, Helen Hayes, Leslie Howard and such spectacular musical extravaganzas as the Ziegfeld Follies, Song of the Flame, etc.," he wrote.
He combined his love of theater with a second career, as producer of the programs for many area theaters.
His affiliation with Playbill magazine as its Baltimore sales representative lasted well into his 90s, and he was one of the publication's oldest employees.
"In addition to his passion for the theater was his passion for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Democratic Party," said Stanley Wagner, who headed the guidance department at City College from 1956 until his retirement in 1977.
Mr. Greenwald is the grandfather of Kenneth B. Mehlman, chairman of the national Republican Party, and Bruce P. Mehlman, former assistant secretary for technology policy for the U.S. Department of Commerce, who now is a partner in Mehlman, Vogel, Castagnetti Inc., a Washington government lobbying firm.
"He used to say with a laugh, `I have two Republican grandsons. I don't know what went wrong. I must have screwed up,'" said Dr. Robert S. Coplan, a former student and longtime friend.
"There were certainly some lively political discussions around here," said Judy Mehlman.
Mr. Greenwald was a 66-year member of Beth Tfiloh Congregation, where he had served on the board and been an active member in its brotherhood.
"Our parents were inseparable. Whether it was the theater, travel, synagogue, physical fitness activities or adult education classes, they did everything together," Judy Mehlman said.
Services will be held at noon tomorrow at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road in Pikesville.
In addition to his wife, daughters and grandsons, survivors include two other grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.