Ernest Gambrill Sr.

[ Age 97 ] Electrical engineer and educator spent more than two decades as a facilities supervisor for city schools

January 28, 2007|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

Ernest Gambrill Sr., a retired electrical engineer and educator whose career as a facilities supervisor for Baltimore public schools spanned more than two decades, died of heart failure Monday at St. Agnes Hospital. The longtime Catonsville resident was 97.

Mr. Gambrill was born at home on North Carey Street - the eighth of 11 children - and was raised in the city's Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood.

He was a 1927 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School and earned his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Howard University in 1931. He also did postgraduate studies at the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland and what is now Morgan State University.

He worked for three years as an assistant surveyor for Albert Cassel, a Washington architect, until taking a job as a stationary engineer in 1934 with the Baltimore public schools. In 1940, he was promoted to chief engineer and superintendent of maintenance for the city's housing authority. In 1950, he transferred to the city Bureau of Recreation and Parks.

From 1954 to 1964, he was district supervisor of school building operations for the city public schools. "He was responsible with two other supervisors for one-third of the city's school buildings, and from 1964 to 1966 was superintendent of the school system's operating engineers," said a daughter, Patricia A. Davis of Baltimore.

From 1966 until his retirement in 1974, Mr. Gambrill, whose office was in the old city school's headquarters building on 25th Street, was superintendent of facilities for the system.

In addition to his regular job, Mr. Gambrill taught stationary engineering at Carver Vocational Technical High School from 1940 to 1970, and from 1974 to 1982 conducted classes in temperature control for apprentice engineers at the school.

Mr. Gambrill's work earned him a Distinguished Certificate of Merit in 1978 from the adult education division of the city schools.

"I remember he'd leave every Wednesday night to teach from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at George Washington Carver Vocational High School, which in the early days was at Lafayette and Carrollton avenues, and later moved to Presstman Street," Mrs. Davis said.

"My father was a very smart man, and education was a big deal with him. He had his standards, and I looked up to him," she said.

"He was a man of great integrity, and placed a great emphasis on education. Because he was educated, he encouraged us to go as far as we could," said another daughter, Judith Gambrill-Butler of Baltimore.

Mr. Gambrill was a member of Metropolitan United Methodist Church for more than 70 years, where he had served as a trustee, chairman of the trustee board, steward and district trustee. He was a member of the Catonsville Caring and Sharing group, a church group, and the Men of Metropolitan.

From 1929 until his health began to fail, Mr. Gambrill was an active member on the local, state and national level of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, and the Baltimore chapter of the Howard University Alumni Association. He was a charter member of the Banneker Optimist Club and a member of the Beaumont Neighborhood Community Association.

Mr. Gambrill enjoyed hunting and fishing and liked collecting stamps and researching his family's genealogy.

He also liked entertaining and working around his home and had a basement workshop with an extensive tool collection, family members said.

"He could fix anything around the house and even could sew. He had made several hand-sewn tablecloths," Mrs. Davis said. "His family could always depend on his loving care, as well as anyone else who needed his assistance."

She added: "His advice for living the good life was `not to worry about life's situations and to do good deeds for others.'"

His wife of 53 years, the former Julia Marcella Palmer, a special education teacher at Gwynns Falls Elementary School, died in 1989.

Services will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at his church, 1121 W. Lanvale St.

In addition to his daughters, also surviving are a son, Ernest Gambrill Jr. of Baltimore; 13 grandchildren; 20 great-grandchildren; three great-great-grandchildren; and his companion, Blanche Johnson of Baltimore.

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