McAllister Tyler

[ Age 87 ] Former Easterwood Park resident served as rifleman and anti-tank crewman during World War II.

November 23, 2006|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN REPORTER

McAllister "Bob" Tyler, a former shipping clerk who went on to become a social services case worker and World War II combat veteran, died of dementia Friday at the Long Green Center nursing home. The former Easterwood Park resident was 87.

Born in Gordonsville, Va., he moved to Sparrows Point with his family and lived in a rented home on a street that was later demolished when the company town owned by Bethlehem Steel was torn down in early 1970s.

"My father often said that if he had unlimited income, he would re-create the town because it was the ideal place to raise children," said his daughter, Donna Tyler Hollie of Baltimore. "Black families lived on I and J streets, and everyone was responsible for everyone else. That closeness appealed to him."

Family members said Mr. Tyler passed a test required for African-American residents of Baltimore County who wanted to go beyond the eighth grade.

They said the county paid his tuition to attend Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and Frederick Douglass High School, where he graduated in 1938.

While at Douglass, he met his future wife, Joni Beatrice Henson. Before her 1990 death, she had been a Hutzler's sales associate in the fabric department of the old Howard Street store.

He took a job at Bethlehem Steel and joined the Army during World War II. He became a part of the Buffalo Soldiers 92nd Infantry Division and sailed for Italy on July 15, 1944. He was a rifleman and anti-tank crewman in the segregated unit.

"He rarely talked about his war experiences," his daughter said. "I can recall his nightmares and his waking up. Those times stayed with him throughout his life."

After the war, he returned to his old job at Bethlehem Steel and worked as a shipping clerk. He retired in 1971 and, at age 55 and at his family's urging, became a caseworker with the Baltimore City Department of Social Services.

"He was a good listener and made home visits to assess people's needs for appliances and furniture," his daughter said.

He worked for an additional 18 years, temporarily retired again, and then spent his final four working years at the Howard County Department of Social Services.

His family said Mr. Tyler did not like to waste time. After taking a carpentry class, he tiled his kitchen, installed a club basement and built closets. He was a crossword puzzle enthusiast and regularly completed The New York Times game.

He traveled to New York to hear the artists he liked, including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown and Michael Jackson. He also collected their records.

"He liked to dance and during retirement, he bowled tenpins daily," his daughter said. "He was a very disciplined man and took steps to insure that his weight never exceeded 175 pounds."

Services will be held at noon Saturday at Locks Funeral Home, 1304 Central Ave.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his son, Brett McAllister Tyler of Laurel; a brother, MacCalister Nicholas Jr. of Temple Hills; three sisters, Mae Nicholas Wilson of Fort Washington, Nancy Nicholas Thomas of Washington, D.C., and Mary Nicholas Gamble of Baltimore; two grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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