Warren Eaton, 101, veteran, longtime auto repairman

December 23, 2005|By JACQUES KELLY | JACQUES KELLY,SUN REPORTER

Warren I. Eaton, a retired automobile mechanic and veteran who began working on cars before World War I, died of a stroke Monday at the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The former Northwood and Lutherville resident was 101.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Covington Street, he moved with his family to 27th and Howard streets when that portion of Howard Street was known as Oak Street. He was among the first students to occupy the then-new Polytechnic Institute building, now the headquarters of the Baltimore City Department of Education, on North Avenue.

In an article about him in the newspaper of the Oak Crest retirement community, where he lived for the past 10 years, Mr. Eaton recalled how he became an auto repairman. He said that about 1914, houses were being constructed on what is now the western edge of Charles Village. Behind the homes were groups of garages that housed early motorcars.

His father was a Metropolitan Insurance salesman and owned a car to call on clients. He saw his son's interest in cars and bought him a broken-down Saxon auto. "Neighbors looking in the garage saw the boy covered with grease at work," the Oak Crest publication said. "It wasn't long before they began asking him to work on their cars."

Mr. Eaton became interested in the different makes of autos being manufactured at the time and bought publications of the American Technical Society and enrolled in its correspondence program.

He also found work at the numerous auto dealers then located along North Avenue and Howard Street.

More than 70 years ago he joined Penn Brothers, a family-owned auto repair firm near the Lafayette Market on Pennsylvania Avenue. He remained with the business after it moved to its longtime home on Reisterstown Road above Park Circle.

"My father hired him because he was such an excellent mechanic. There was nothing he couldn't do to get a car fixed up," said Lewis Penn, with whom Mr. Eaton worked. "Whatever the problem, he would take the time and figure it out. He had real dedication."

During World War II, Mr. Eaton served in the Navy aboard destroyers. He was part of the Atlantic coastal patrol that chased enemy submarines and was later assigned to the South Pacific. He achieved the rank of chief petty officer.

Mr. Penn, his employer, recalled that when Ford introduced its Edsel model, his agency had the sales rights for the west side of Baltimore.

"It was a new model, and the car had its problems," Mr. Penn said. "Warren took an interest in it and got involved."

In 1947 Mr. Eaton married Irene Rollins, who taught for nearly 18 years at Winston and Walter P. Carter elementary schools.

Mr. Eaton drove Chevrolets most of his life. Family members said he was also adept at fixing kitchen ranges, dryers and washing machines.

Mr. Eaton was a member of the Calvary Baptist Church in Towson and the Masons.

Services were held yesterday at Oak Crest Village.

In addition to his wife, survivors include a daughter, Sarah E. Eaton of Miami. A son, Wesley Eaton, died in 1995.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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