Richard Fitch Sr.

[Age 82] The Baltimore County police sergeant was a World War II veteran who co-wrote an arson investigation textbook.

February 11, 2007|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,Sun reporter

Richard Daniel Fitch Sr., a World War II veteran, former Baltimore County police sergeant and author of an arson investigation book, died Tuesday of stomach cancer at his Rosedale home. He was 82.

He was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., enlisted in the Navy at 18 and trained in Annapolis before fighting in World War II. After serving in the North Africa campaign, he piloted a landing craft during the D-Day assault on the Normandy beaches June 6, 1944. He was awarded the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal for his service.

After the war, he moved to the Baltimore area and married Vivian Anello on Dec. 6, 1946. The couple built their home in Rosedale.

A self-made man whose first job as a youngster was shining shoes in Times Square, he taught himself to write and was a self-taught, licensed electrician according to a son, James Michael Fitch of Baltimore County. Above all, he was a family man.

"He was everything to us kids," his son said. "He was the most honest man I've ever met in [my] life. We all try to follow in his footsteps."

In 1956, he joined the Baltimore County Police Department, where he worked as a patrol officer and rose to the rank of sergeant during 20 years of service.

He inspired two of his three sons to become police officers. James Fitch retired from the Baltimore County force as a corporal. In 1999, he wrote in a Police Department anniversary book that his father was his inspiration for becoming an officer.

"He was my hero, my idol," said James Fitch. "He had integrity before it was a buzzword. I wanted to be like that."

Another son, John Paul Fitch, also of Baltimore County, was a Housing Authority of Baltimore City police sergeant before joining the Department of Defense police at Aberdeen Proving Ground. He said his father was "proud of his profession, but it wasn't his whole identity."

Sergeant Fitch's naval service left him with a love of the water, and he spent summers sailing on the Chesapeake Bay from his family's second home in Bowleys Quarters in Baltimore County.

As a young man, Sergeant Fitch had studied at the National Radio Institute, and he parlayed that experience into a longtime hobby of collecting and refurbishing antique radios. He also was a writer and editor at Radio-Electronic Magazine.

Sergeant Fitch took on another writing project in 1968. Along with Edward A. Porter, a police colleague who also was a volunteer firefighter, he wrote the first edition of Accidental or Incendiary.

It became the standard training textbook for arson investigators, and the pair published a second edition in 1997. At the time of Sergeant Fitch's death, he and Mr. Porter were at work on the book's third edition.

The family plans to hold a memorial service at a later date.

In addition to his wife and two sons, Sergeant Fitch is survived by another son, Richard Daniel Fitch Jr. of Baltimore County; a sister, Ruth Fitch Arroyo of New Hampshire; and four grandchildren.

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