John W. Sappington

Age 55: The life insurance supervisor was active in neighborhood projects.

July 07, 2008|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN REPORTER

John Wesley Sappington, a life insurance firm official and Windsor Hills community activist, died of complications from non-Hodgkins lymphoma Tuesday at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was 55.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Brooklyn Park, he was a 1971 graduate of Brooklyn Park High School.

After working briefly at the old Montgomery Ward Co., he joined Baltimore Life Insurance Co. and remained with the firm for 37 years. He worked in computer programming, and at his death he was a supervisor in the company's finance department.

"He was the kind of person who would do anything for anybody at any time or place," said L. John Pearson, Baltimore Life's president.

About 25 years ago, Mr. Sappington and his life partner, David A.C. Carroll, head of the Baltimore County Office of Sustainability and a former Maryland Secretary of the Environment, bought a rundown house in the Windsor Hills section of West Baltimore. They restored the residence and soon became active in efforts to increase public use of and appreciation for the Gwynns Falls Valley.

Mr. Sappington was a founding member of the Windsor Hills Conservation Trail Committee, a group whose members established a 1.5-mile unpaved path that follows part of the old No. 35 streetcar line at Clifton and Fairfax roads. The trail allows the neighborhood access to the larger Gwynns Falls hiking and biking trail.

"He was an anchor of our committee. He was a hard worker who threw himself into whatever he was doing, from brush- hogging through the invasive plants on the trail to organizing the last detail for our festivals," said Elaine Yamada, chairwoman of the Windsor Hills Trail committee and a psychologist. "He wanted to share his love of nature by bringing people out. He was the biggest fan of our nature hikes and bird walks. He was our go-to guy for festivals."

He and others worked with students from the Windsor Hills Elementary-Middle School as well as residents who were unfamiliar with aspects of their community.

He also worked to restore a second home called Sandy Landing near the Indian River in southern Delaware. He had an interest in raising perennial plants and helped design and establish a half-acre garden.

While on a trip to England several years ago, Mr. Sappington joined the Royal Horticultural Society to increase his knowledge of flowering plants.

Mr. Sappington was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma five years ago. He received a successful bone-marrow transplant from his brother but died of complications related to pneumonia, among other medical conditions. He spent the past five months at Hopkins.

Mr. Sappington was a member of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Woodlawn, where he was a lay healer and vestry member.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation, 4 E. University Parkway.

In addition to his partner, survivors include a brother, Orval Sappington of Severna Park; and nieces and nephews.

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