Louis Rice Witt Jr.

[Age 84] The World War II veteran was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, and was a contracting firm executive.

May 31, 2007|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN REPORTER

Louis Rice Witt Jr., a retired petroleum equipment executive and decorated World War II veteran, died of congestive heart failure Sunday at Union Memorial Hospital. The Catonsville resident was 84.

Born in Niagara Falls, N.Y., he attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and earned a degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

He joined the Army and landed at Marseille, France, in October 1944. He served in an infantry unit that was trucked to the front near Baccarat in the Lorraine province.

"I took the first tour of guard duty in front of a house," he wrote in a memoir about an incident in April 1945, after he had advanced to Affaltrach, Germany.

"It was pitch dark and after a short time I heard the sound of hobnail boots coming down the street. ... In retrospect it is easy to say that what I should have done was to shoot first and ask questions later. However, knowing that we were in need of a prisoner for interrogation, I made what proved to be the wrong decision and ordered him to halt. An instant later a shot rang out and I was shot in the upper right arm by what was later determined to be a handgun."

Mr. Witt was later awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

He was the 1968 president of the 100th Infantry Division Association and twice visited the border town of Bitche, France, on anniversaries of its liberation by the Allies.

He moved to Baltimore in 1950 to work for an uncle, Alan U. Bevier, who owned a company that sold equipment for petroleum-carrying trucks. Mr. Witt retired in 1991 from Petroleum Services Inc., a general contracting firm that builds gasoline stations.

"He was a salt-of-the-earth man who connected well with people," said a stepson, Jeff Underland of Baltimore, with whom he worked. "He was very well liked in the industry."

He lived in Arbutus and Lutherville before moving to the Charlestown community 12 years ago. He was chairman there of a support group for people with family members in a nursing home. He also founded Charlestown Angels, a volunteer group that visits nursing home patients without family nearby.

A 32nd-degree Mason, he was a member of Howard Lodge and the Boumi Temple Shrine. He also belonged to the Catonsville and Brown Memorial Woodbrook Presbyterian churches.

Services will be at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow at Our Lady of the Angels Chapel at Charlestown, 711 Maiden Choice Lane.

In addition to his stepson, survivors include his wife of 12 years, the former Margaret Parks; a son, Louis Rice Witt III of Lutherville; five daughters, Wendy Louise Witt of New Paltz, N.Y., Carolyn "Carrie" Connelly and Laurie Malaby of Salisbury, Nancy Heiliger of Columbia and Marsha Greenslit of Rexford, N.Y.; 25 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Mr. Witt outlived two wives, the former Louise Rose Strauss and Betty Ann Underland.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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