Perry Stewart Sr.

[ Age 75 ] The supervisor with the city Department of Public Works was part of an `elite group ... who kept the city going'

November 18, 2006|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,sun reporter

Perry William Stewart Sr., who began as a laborer and retired as a Baltimore Department of Public Works supervisor, died of a stroke Sunday at University of Maryland Medical Center. The Ednor Gardens resident was 75.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Boone Street in Waverly, he attended Dunbar High School before enlisting in the Navy. He served as a cook.

After his discharge he worked at Bethlehem Steel's Sparrows Point shipyard for several years until he took a job with the city Department of Public Works.

Working out of a Franklintown Road building, he was part of a crew that repaired the city's sewer system.

"He was not afraid to go down, underground," said his daughter Vanessa Thompson of Baltimore. "He said you might see a raccoon down there but not much more."

Family members said that after working in racially segregated conditions, Mr. Stewart was among the first African-Americans to staff a vehicle known as the complaint truck. He visited neighborhoods where residents had called in public works problems.

"He was part of an elite group of black men who kept the city going," his daughter said, adding that he was on good terms with Mayors Thomas J. D'Alesandro III and William Donald Schaefer.

"He was a very fair person," said Joyce McLaughlin, a co-worker and friend. "He'd sit there and listen to your problems. He was a true gentleman."

Mr. Stewart retired in 1996 as general superintendent of storm drains at the Public Works Department's Park Terminal at Fulton and Druid Hill avenues.

"My father was a big and strong man who could lift anything," his daughter said. "He loved driving those big utility trucks."

She said his biggest challenge was extreme winter weather, when water mains burst, storm drains became clogged and streets had to be coated with salt.

Colleagues said he moved his office temporarily to a storm center where he monitored snow removal. He also visited work sites to keep up workers' morale.

Mr. Stewart was a member of the Neptune Yacht Club and often anchored his boat alongside the harbor promenade near Phillips seafood restaurant, where he greeted and made friends.

He belonged to American Legion Post 19 and the Monumental Elks Lodge.

Mr. Stewart joined the Masons and was a member of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, where he spent many hours after his retirement. He was at the lodge Saturday when he suffered a massive stroke.

Services will be held at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at the lodge, Eutaw Place and Lanvale Street.

Survivors include his wife of 55 years, the former Charlotte Johnson; four other daughters, Deborah Meadows and Terry Nickens, both of Baltimore, Laverne Taylor of East Long Island, N.Y., and Vickie Stewart, a missionary in Curitiba, Brazil; a sister, Lavinia Dorsey of Baltimore; eight grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

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