Charles Sumner Dawson

[ Age 87 ] Pharmaceutical researcher served in the Navy during World War II, was involved in combat at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

April 07, 2008|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,SUN REPORTER

Charles Sumner Dawson, a pharmaceutical researcher and World War II veteran who lived most of his life in Baltimore County, died of heart failure Thursday. He was 87.

Mr. Dawson was born in Scranton, Pa., the eldest of three children. His father, an executive for an electric company, died when Mr. Dawson was 5 years old, after a bout with the flu. His mother remarried a few years later.

Mr. Dawson grew up in the western suburbs of Philadelphia, referred to as the "main line," and later graduated from Lower Merion High School. He received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Pennsylvania State University in 1943. A participant in the school's Navy ROTC program, he was ordered to attend the Midshipmen's School at Columbia University.

Mr. Dawson served as a chief engineer on the USS Shannon in both the Atlantic and Pacific during World War II, said his eldest son, Charles Sumner Dawson Jr. of Glenmont, N.Y., who referred to his father as "a quietly proud veteran" who "didn't wear it on his sleeve."

Mr. Dawson was involved in combat missions at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, extensive operations in the East China Sea and the occupation of Japan, his son said.

When he went off to war, he had a girlfriend, said his daughter, Anne Christensen of St. Helens, Ore. It was customary in those days, she said, for the girlfriend of a serviceman to visit her boyfriend's parents.

"But she was kind of shy and didn't want to see these old people by herself, so she took her best friend," Mrs. Christensen said.

Upon his return from the war, Mr. Dawson married that best friend, Marjorie Stelwagon, in 1947 in Philadelphia. Mrs. Dawson died in 2006.

Mr. Dawson had a long career in the pharmaceutical industry, beginning in sales and moving into research, where he conducted clinical trials for new medications.

"When he came out [of the Navy], penicillin was new," his son said. "So he grew up with that industry."

A few years later, the Dawsons moved to Lutherville and then Rodgers Forge, settling on Dumbarton Road. Their next-door-neighbor was Frank Lauterbur, who at the time was a coach for the Baltimore Colts.

But Mr. Dawson's career beckoned, and he and his wife and their three children moved back to the Philadelphia area. In 1967, they settled in Syracuse, N.Y., where he worked for Wyeth Laboratories. In the early to mid-1970s, they moved back to Maryland, this time to Towson.

He retired at age 62, but continued to work as a consultant in the pharmaceutical industry.

In his spare time, Mr. Dawson enjoyed sailing and swimming, and was a "gifted bridge player," his son said. He vacationed on Maryland's Eastern Shore and in Maine, and especially loved Silver Lake near the Delaware River and Dingmans Ferry, Pa., where he spent summers as a child.

A memorial service is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Baltimore, where he was a communicant.

In addition to his son and daughter, he is survived by another son, Frederick Stelwagon Dawson of Baltimore; and three grandchildren.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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