Forrest F. Gesswein

The World War II veteran operated a Parkville taxicab company and was interested in local history and railroads.

January 16, 2009|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,

Forrest F. Gesswein, a decorated World War II veteran who owned a Parkville taxicab business, died of heart disease Sunday at his Parkville home. He was 89.

Born in Baltimore, he was a 1937 Towson High School graduate. As a young man, he assisted his parents at their Parkville family restaurant. He handled the beer kegs and bought eggs from local farmers. As World War II approached, he enlisted in the Marines and was sent to the Pacific. He fought and was wounded at the Battle of Guadalcanal. He was later awarded the Purple Heart.

"He was a patriotic guy," said his attorney, Roger S. Weinberg. "He was also generous and from the old school. He lived through the Depression and went off to war. He was not afraid of hard work."

After the war, Mr. Gesswein returned to Parkville, where his parents soon retired from restaurant work. He opened the Suburban Cab Co. in the former restaurant space at Harford Road and Lavender Avenue.

"We started with two beat-up Chryslers. He did a lot of the driving at first," said his wife of 61 years, Shirley C. McCulley. "We later bought up the old Bell Cab Co."

Over the years, he went on to acquire a small fleet of cabs, which he dispatched on a two-way radio. He had a mechanic but often worked alongside him in the cab garage. In 1967, he considered buying a competitor, Jimmy's Cabs, but wound up selling out to that business. For the next 15 years, he sold residential and commercial real estate through the old J. Walter Jones brokerage.

Mr. Gesswein had two other interests: local history and Maryland railroads. In the 1950s, he chased steam locomotives in a car and took numerous photographs of the rapidly vanishing engines. He later donated his collection of photos of the Western Maryland, Maryland & Pennsylvania, and Baltimore & Ohio railroads to the Maryland Rail Heritage Library.

On Aug. 31, 1954, Mr. Gesswein rode and chased the last Ma & Pa passenger train on a line that once ran between Baltimore and York, Pa. His account of that day was later published in the Timetable, a publication of the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad Historical Society.

"He enjoyed railroads and had a friend who had a car, and they would chase the train," said Rudolph Fischer, a Baltimore County resident who is active in rail history societies. "He shot things we hadn't seen before. He took the only photos I know of that last passenger train going south through Glen Arm."

Mr. Gesswein recorded the trains traveling over large timber trestles in Baltimore County's Cromwell Valley, and friends said he photographed a wreck on the Western Maryland Railway near its Hancock station on Feb. 21, 1959.

He also collected model trains and built Christmas gardens.

Mr. Gesswein and fellow residents of the Carney-Parkville area formed a committee to compile historical information and photographs on those two communities. They planned to publish a book, which he did not live to complete.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at St. John's Lutheran Church, 8808 Harford Road.

In addition to his wife, survivors include many nieces and nephews.

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