John Hennessy

[ Age 64] Lifelong area resident had stints as Baltimore County teacher, Army weapons analyst at Aberdeen.

April 29, 2007|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,sun reporter

John F. Hennessy Jr., a former Baltimore County school teacher and weapons analyst for the Army, died of complications from colon cancer Wednesday at Good Samaritan Hospital. He was 64.

Mr. Hennessy grew up in Parkville a few doors away from a boy who would become a lifelong friend. "We did all kinds of things together," said John A. Meyers. "We collected animals -- tadpoles and frogs, and brought them home."

Mr. Meyers recalled the pair deciding to run away from home at age 9. The boys packed sandwiches, an ax and a saw, and set off in the morning. By dusk, the weather grew chilly in the nearby woods, and they returned home.

"His mother was on the front porch and said, `How was the trip?'" Mr. Meyers recalled.

Mr. Hennessy graduated from the Polytechnic Institute in 1960 and then matriculated at the Johns Hopkins University, where he was a member of the Kappa Alpha fraternity. As a sophomore, a friend set him up on a New Year's Eve blind date with a 17-year-old high school student named Mary Strama. She later became his wife.

When Mr. Hennessy graduated in 1964, he landed a teaching job at Sparrows Point Middle School.

He and Mary Strama Hennessy married in April 1967 and had a son the next year. Mr. Hennessy decided to pursue a new line of work and got a job testing weapons systems for the Army at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Mrs. Hennessy said.

After five years at Aberdeen, Mr. Hennessy decided to obtain a teaching certificate from Loyola College. He found a position as a math and science instructor at Loch Raven Middle School.

But several years later, he changed his mind again and got another job with the Army, testing tanks and helicopters at Aberdeen, Mrs. Hennessy said.

"His father was an engineer; his mother was a teacher. I think he was trying to please them both," said Jim Lewis, a cousin and friend.

Mr. Hennessy's Army work required him to make frequent trips until 2005, when he retired and began working as a consultant.

Although he spent much of his life improving weapons systems, Mrs. Hennessy said that her husband did not support combat. "What he said was, `I'm trying to protect the troops,'" she said.

While working for the government, he also earned a Master of Liberal Arts degree from Hopkins.

In the 1990s, he focused on Baltimore history and spent years developing photographs from negatives that his grandfather made of city scenes from the late 1800s. The images were displayed at the Peale Museum in Baltimore, his family said.

Baseball trivia was another passion. Before his initial bout with cancer, he hoped to travel with his cousin to every major league stadium in the country. "We only got to three," Mr. Lewis said.

Mr. Meyers, a friend for 60 years, said Mr. Hennessy recently called him with an outing idea: The pair would go to the New Cathedral Cemetery in West Baltimore to hunt for the graves of old baseball players. "He said, `We've got to go,'" Mr. Meyers recalled. "Jack could get you involved with anything."

The two never visited the cemetery together. But tomorrow, that is where Mr. Hennessy will be interred.

A mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Saint Ignatius Church, 740 N. Calvert St.

In addition to his wife, survivors include two sons, John F. Hennessy III of Parkville and Joseph P. Hennessy of Middle River; a daughter, Valerie Jae Fleming of Frederick; one granddaughter; and two grandsons.

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