Rene Jacques Gunning, 83, railroad attorney, volunteer


Rene Jacques Gunning, a retired railroad lawyer and active volunteer, died of heart disease and pancreatic cancer Sunday at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The longtime Roland Park resident was 83.

Mr. Gunning was born in Baltimore and raised on Kendall Road. He was a 1938 graduate of Loyola High School and earned a bachelor's degree from Loyola College in 1942.

During World War II, he served as a naval communications officer in North Africa, and after the war remained in the Naval Reserve until retiring in 1982 as a lieutenant commander.

Mr. Gunning earned his law degree in 1949 from Georgetown University Law School and joined the legal department of the Western Maryland Railway. When it was merged into what became CSX in the 1970s, Mr. Gunning continued working as a general attorney for the new railroad company until retiring in 1986.

"He was a competent house attorney, did his job well, and was a nice guy. He had a personality that made people feel comfortable when dealing with him," said Yerby R. Holman, a retired Western Maryland Railway executive.

"I have very fond memories of our associations over these many years," E. Ray Lichty, a CSX executive, wrote in a 1986 letter. "Numerous abandonment hearings and cases, an untold number of trackage rights agreements, endless negotiations with Conrail and certainly the CSX merger case, have provided a stage for us to do our thing."

Mr. Lichty characterized their work together -- even when they lost cases -- as being "most enjoyable."

"He had all the virtues in life. He was kind and charitable and a fine gentleman," said John R. Higinbotham, a retired CSX lawyer and friend.

In his retirement, Mr. Gunning began volunteering. He was an adult literacy tutor two days a week until last year at St. Ambrose Family Outreach Center.

"It has been a heart-warming experience for me to observe firsthand the progress people can make when they stick with it," Mr. Gunning said in a 2001 annual report published by the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Baltimore.

He also volunteered for 16 years at St. Jerome's Head Start Center in Southwest Baltimore.

He had been vice president of the Serra Club, a Roman Catholic lay group that supports religious education and vocations, and was a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame Advisory Committee.

For years, Mr. Gunning was active in the alumni association at Loyola High School, and during the 1970s and 1980s was a member of the school's Alumni Board of Governors. He was the board's president from 1981 to 1982.

Mr. Gunning was an accomplished fly fisherman and enjoyed the sport in Colorado. He was also an avid flower and vegetable gardener and liked playing bridge and poker.

For the past 50 years, Mr. Gunning was a communicant of St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church, 6428 York Road in Rodgers Forge, where he had served on the parish council and social justice committee.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered for him there at 11 a.m. tomorrow.

Surviving are his wife of 50 years, the former Mary Strott; a son, Rene J. Gunning Jr. of Stevenson; a daughter, Mary M. Gunning of Baltimore; and two grandchildren.

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