Charles E. Polesne Sr., 71, foreman, volunteer fireman


Charles E. Polesne Sr., a retired mechanical foreman whose work for a volunteer fire department in White Marsh spanned more than half a century, died June 11 of mucosal melanoma at his home in Perry Hall. He was 71.

Born and raised on a farm in Perry Hall, Mr. Polesne went to work for Bethlehem Steel Corp. in 1954 as a machinist apprentice, a year after graduating from Kenwood High School. He retired as general mechanical foreman at the plant's plate mill in 1987.

Although he recently moved back to Perry Hall with his wife of 49 years, the former Nuala Cannon, they spent most of their lives in White Marsh, where they raised their four children.

Mrs. Polesne, who immigrated to this country from Ireland as a teenager, said she was working as a manicurist at Hutzler's department store in Towson when she met her future husband. He was 18 and working a part-time job to earn extra money for Christmas.

"His personality and his kindness is what attracted me," Mrs. Polesne said. "As soon as I saw him, I said this is the guy I'm going to marry. ... He swept me off my feet."

Friends and family said Mr. Polesne's involvement with the Coventon Volunteer Fire Company -- later renamed the White Marsh Volunteer Fire Company -- was a central part of his life.

"He enjoyed his family and friends and the firehouse," said Donald L. Chilcoat, a longtime friend and fellow volunteer fireman. "Our children were raised in the firehouse. It was nothing to go there on weekends and see eight to 10 playpens set up."

Lt. Jack P. Amrhein of the Baltimore County Fire Department said Mr. Polesne was well-respected in the tightknit community of firefighters.

Mr. Polesne headed the fire company as chief or captain at various times, including one stretch of 13 years, and he trained many young firefighters who went on to pursue professional careers.

"I would say there are probably 25 career officers in the Baltimore County Fire Department who got their first leadership and training under Charlie's tutorship," Mr. Amrhein said.

A son, Charles Polesne Jr. of Bel Air, was among those to follow a firefighting career. He is a lieutenant in the Baltimore County Fire Department.

Mr. Chilcoat said Mr. Polesne was deeply affected by a tragedy in 1971 that claimed the lives of four volunteer firefighters -- two from the Coventon fire company -- as they attempted a floodwater rescue. He said Mr. Polesne nearly lost his life that day.

Mr. Polesne's daughter Anne Howell of Perry Hall said dozens of visitors stopped by to pay their respects in her father's final days.

"We knew we had a great dad, but we didn't know how many people shared those feelings with us," she said. "He was just well-respected. The family was humbled."

A funeral Mass was offered Thursday at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Fullerton.

In addition to his wife, son and daughter, survivors include another son, John Polesne of Perry Hall; another daughter, Kathy Grutowski of Fallston; a sister, Avis Tarr of Perry Hall; seven grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

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