Sidney Sakols

[ Age 90 ] Real estate executive ran for public office, protested Jones Falls Expressway.

July 27, 2007|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

Sidney Sakols, a real estate executive and civic activist, died Sunday of multiple organ failure at Keswick Multi-Care Center. He was 90.

He was born in Baltimore and lived for five years in East Baltimore before moving in 1922 to a home in the 800 block of Lake Drive, where he would live until his death.

After graduating from City College in 1935, he joined S. Sakols & Sons, the family real estate business that had been established by his father.

During World War II, he served in the Army and attained the rank of master sergeant.

He later became vice president and president of Modern Home Improvement Co., a subsidiary of S. Sakols & Sons, which he operated until 2000, when he closed the business.

At his death, Mr. Sakols was president of S. Sakols & Sons, which owned and managed several Baltimore properties.

"He was a genuine character," said Julian L. Lapides, a Baltimore attorney and former state senator.

In 1950, when Mr. Sakols complained of being "crushed, squeezed and being made extremely uncomfortable" by overcrowding on the No. 28 bus, he asked the Circuit Court to file an injunction against the Baltimore Transit Co., whose drivers, he said, "habitually" show "utter disregard for the rules of the Public Service Commission in the overloading of vehicles."

Mr. Sakols, who caught the bus at Lexington and Liberty streets each evening at 5:30 Monday through Friday -- said the overcrowding caused him to arrive home "mentally and physically ill"

He lost his case.

Billing himself as an Independent Democrat, he ran for state Senate in 1958, and for the Democratic nomination for the 4th District in 1962.

He lost again.

In 1963, when Jones Falls Expressway construction caused his beloved Lake Drive to be widened and in the process destroyed parkland on the south side of the street, Mr. Sakols founded the Save Lake Drive Committee.

One day, Mr. Sakols brought construction to a halt when he mounted a one-man protest on a ladder placed over a construction trench.

He refused to move from his neighborhood and never gave up hope that it would someday return to its former glory, family members said.

Mr. Sakols enjoyed singing and had been a member of the Baltimore Symphony Chorus. He also enjoyed writing songs and was the author of "The Governor's March."

"It was recorded by the Naval Academy Band and it was played at the inaugurations of Governors Tawes and McKeldin," said David M. Schimmel, a nephew, of Amherst, Mass. "But the song, much to his dismay, never became a regular part of the inauguration."

Mr. Sakols was also an opera buff and invented what he called an "illuminating magnifying glass" which he took to performances.

"He wanted to be able to read the libretto when he went to the opera and if he took a regular flashlight, people would complain," Mr. Schimmel said. "So, he invented a small light with a Lucite extension that allowed him to read the libretto."

Mr. Sakols enjoyed tennis, swimming and boating.

He was a member of Chizuk Amuno Congregation, B'nai Brith, Cassia Lodge No. 45, and the Golden Eagle Square and Compass Club. He was also a member of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Guild of Variety Artists.

"How many people live in the same house, go to the same business, and attend the same congregation for 80 years?" Mr. Schimmel said.

Services were held Thursday.

Also surviving are two sisters, Dorothy Lipman of Pikesville and Blanche Schimmel of Beverly Hills, Calif.; four other nephews; and two nieces.

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