Paul G. Churchill

A veteran and a longtime Howard County schoolteacher, he was an avid fan of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.

November 13, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,

Paul Gabriel Churchill, a retired Howard County educator and avid Sherlock Holmes enthusiast, died Friday of complications fromprostate cancer at his Eldersburg home. He was 63.

Mr. Churchill was born in Washington and raised in Allanwood and Riverdale, where he graduated from Riverdale High School in 1963.

He earned a bachelor's degree in Latin from the University of Maryland, College Park, with minors in Greek and history. In 1985, he earned a master's degree from what is now Towson University.

Mr. Churchill was commissioned an officer in the Air Force in 1967 and served as a transportation officer with the Military Air Command and the Strategic Air Command.

He also completed a tour of duty in Vietnam before being discharged with the rank of captain in 1972.

In 1972, Mr. Churchill began teaching at Longfellow Elementary School, and in 1980 moved to Centennial High School, where he taught Latin and French.

He retired from Centennial in 1996, but continued teaching part time at the school until 2006.

"Everyone loved Paul and he really knew how to keep kids engaged. He also had a remarkable talent for drawing and caricatures and was a phenomenal scholar," said Geri L. Willis, a media specialist, who retired from Centennial in 2005.

After he retired from Centennial, Mr. Churchill became an adjunct professor at Hood College in Frederick, where he taught Latin for several years.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his sidekick, Dr. John H. Watson, became a lifelong passion of Mr. Churchill's.

"His father had an interest in Sherlock Holmes and exposed him at an early age to what is called the "Sherlock Holmes Canon,' " said a son, Mark G. Churchill of Lincoln, Neb.

Mr. Churchill's wife of 22 years, the former Jo Ann Grammer, died in 1989.

"It was during my mother's battle with Lou Gehrig's disease [amyotrophic lateral sclerosis] in the 1980s, that he got back into reading Sherlock Holmes stories again," the son said.

"After my mother's death, reading and studying Sherlock Holmes is what he did with his free time," the son said.

Mr. Churchill had been a member of the Baker Street Irregulars in New York City, and was a member of the Six Napoleons in Baltimore, both groups devoted to Sherlock Holmes.

In 1988, he was a co-founder of Watson's Tin Box in Ellicott City, a scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars.

In addition to maintaining an extensive library focusing on Sherlockiana for about the last 20 years, Mr. Churchill scoured antique shops and cruised eBay in search of Victorian antiques and objects d'arte. He used the pieces to convert the living room of his Eldersburg home into a replica of 221-B Baker Street, Holmes' London flat.

William J. Hyder, a retired S un reporter and copy editor who is a Sherlock Holmes scholar and author, was a longtime friend.

"He was an immensely talented and cheerful man," said Mr. Hyder, a member of the Six Napoleons. "He was also a talented cartoonist and had also illustrated several Sherlock Holmes books."

Debbie P. Clark is an adjunct professor of special education at Goucher College, a Sherlock Holmes fan, and an active member of Watson's Tin Box.

She recalled a line from the story that is spoken by Dr. Watson in praise of Sherlock Holmes.

"He said, 'He was the best and wisest man I've ever known,' and that can be said of Paul," Ms. Clark said.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Burrier-Queen Funeral Home, 1212 W. Liberty Road, Winfield.

Also surviving is another son, Gregory S. Churchill of Parkville; two brothers, James R. Churchill of Alexandria, Va., and David M. Churchill of Frederick; and a granddaughter.

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