Walter J. Ennals, 91

City recreation leader

June 25, 2008|By Jacques Kelly

Walter James Ennals, a retired city recreation leader for whom a West Baltimore basketball court was named, died of cancer June 17 at Joseph Richey Hospice in downtown Baltimore. The Catonsville resident was 91.

Born in Baltimore and raised by his grandparents in Cambridge, he joined the Works Progress Administration during the Depression and moved stones in a quarry to earn money for college.

He was a 1939 graduate of Morgan State University, where he earned a biology degree.

After service in the Navy during World War II, he worked briefly at Bethlehem Steel Co. At his stepfather's urging, he changed jobs and became recreation director at Lexington Terrace, a former public housing development.

"He mentored many young people who came from the homes," said his daughter, Joyce A. Sturgis of Catonsville. "As the director, he laid down the rules, and the children had to abide by them - or they could not come to the center. It was a sentence almost worse than death when Mr. Ennals would not let them come to the center."

A 1972 Evening Sun profile of Mr. Ennals said he knew the name of every child who appeared at his center.

"Mr. Ennals is a great foe of what he terms the stereotype belief that a ghetto youngster 'cannot help but be bad, living in these types of neighborhoods,' " the article said, adding that he "won't let a child use his background as an excuse to misbehave, either."

The article noted that he helped organize the Young Creators, a girls' modern dance group, originally called Young, Gifted and Black.

He retired after 33 years at Lexington Terrace. He was honored at a community celebration, and the basketball court at the center was named in his honor in the early 1980s.

Mr. Ennals was an avid bridge player and belonged to several card clubs. He also competed in bridge tournaments.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Christ United Methodist Church, 2005 E. Chase St., where he had been finance committee chairman.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of nearly 68 years, the former Thelma Adele Sampson; and another daughter, Bernadette Johnson of Hyattsville.

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