William Finglass, engineer, Navy veteran

March 09, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen

William Finglass, a civil engineer who established his own construction company, died Tuesday of cancer at Boca Raton Memorial Hospital in Boca Raton, Fla. The Pikesville resident was 97.

Born in Eastport, near Annapolis, Mr. Finglass later moved to Forest Park Avenue with his family. He was a 1929 graduate of Forest Park High School and earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from what is now Carnegie Mellon University in 1933.

He began his career in the 1930s working for the Baltimore construction firm of John McShain Builders.

During World War II, he served for five years in the Navy, where he attained the rank of lieutenant commander.

After the war, he established American Construction Co. in Washington in 1946.

Major construction projects that Mr. Finglass' firm handled included the expansion of the West Wing of the White House, completed during the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Other projects included construction of the World Bank Building, Pan-American Health Building, the U.S. Capitol terrace, eight buildings on the campus of Gallaudet College and various buildings for the Navy.

During his more than 40-year career, Mr. Finglass built high schools, bridges, hospitals and hotels. He retired and closed the business in the 1980s.

He was a former president of the Washington Builders Association.

While living in retirement in Boca Raton, Mr. Finglass lobbied for a third lane on Route A1A, so that emergency vehicles could get through unimpeded by other traffic.

"It took him eight years of letters and phone calls, all documented in a large three-ring binder," said Gloria Finglass, a sister-in-law, of Monkton. "He never gave up, and in 2001, the third lane of A1A was dedicated."

Mr. Finglass enjoyed walking and was a member of a walking club in Boca Raton. "He was still sharp as a tack at the end of his life," his sister-in-law said.

His wife of 29 years, the former Ethel Fisher, died in 1976. In 1985, he married the former Sophie Chertkoff, who died in 1993.

Services were held Thursday.

Surviving are a son, Jack Finglass of Washington; and three brothers, Leon Finglass of Pikesville, Sidney Finglass of Monkton and Gilbert Finglass of Baltimore.

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