Paul John Lioi, 72, sergeant in city Police Department


Paul John Lioi, a highly decorated retired police sergeant who headed arson investigations in Baltimore and once delivered a baby, died Friday of complications from diabetes at Florida East Hospital in Orlando. The former Cedonia resident was 72.

In his 27-year career with the Baltimore Police Department, he received numerous commendations, including a top honor for his 1972 rescue of a woman held hostage at gunpoint.

Sergeant Lioi was described in The Evening Sun in 1977 as "a small, quiet man, always neatly dressed and always very polite."

Born in Little Italy, he attended St. Leo's Parochial School, where he was a bugler in the marching band and played on the basketball team.

"He loved his old neighborhood and often recounted stories of his early youth playing and boxing in the Carroll Mansion, which was a recreation center at the time," said his son, Dr. Raymond Lioi of Bel Air. "As a child he worked in his parents' confectionery store at Pratt and Exeter streets. It was a gathering place for neighborhood teenagers who danced there to music played on a jukebox."

He was a 1953 graduate of then-Patterson Park High School, where he played lacrosse. Family members said his team lost a championship game after he missed an overtime shot.

Sergeant Lioi served as a cook in the Army from 1954 to 1956 and was stationed in Germany. He used leave time to visit his parents' hometown of St. Andrea in Calabria, Italy.

He joined the old Baltimore Park Police in 1957 because he did not meet the height requirement of the city Police Department.

When the two departments merged in 1961, he became a city officer and worked a Greenmount Avenue foot patrol at a time when officers had to summon backup assistance from manual call boxes located blocks apart.

In 1966, while working in the Northeastern District, Sergeant Lioi received a call for assistance on Robb Street, where he found a mother in the final stages of labor.

"He took off his uniform jacket and rolled his sleeves," a Sun columnist wrote in 1984, when Sergeant Lioi retired from the police force.

After successfully delivering the baby girl, he returned several weeks later to give the mother a little dress for her new daughter.

"You fooled me," the mother said. "When I saw you roll up your sleeves, I figured you knew exactly what you were doing."

Sergeant Lioi was honored by Mayor Theodore R. McKeldin in 1966 after the Hamilton Lions Club named him its Policeman of the Year for subduing and disarming a man who had held a gun to Mr. Lioi's chest.

He earned the Medal of Honor several years later for apprehending a man who had robbed a Sears store and took a cashier hostage.

Sergeant Lioi also headed the arson investigation unit for 11 years.

He retired to Orlando and served on the board of the retirement community where he lived.

A Mass was offered yesterday at St. Leo Roman Catholic Church in Little Italy. He was buried in Bel Air Memorial Gardens with full police honors.

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 21 years, the former Maria Gregorat; another son, Dan Lioi, a city police lieutenant, who resides in Bel Air; a daughter, Jean Welsh of Fallston; a stepdaughter, Sandra Villasuso of Palm Harbor, Fla.; two brothers, Andrew Lioi and Gerard Lioi, both of Baltimore; and 10 grandchildren. His first marriage to Lillian Engel ended in divorce.

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