Jesse Martak Sr., longtime volunteer

February 12, 2010|By Chris Kaltenbach

Jesse William Martak Sr., a longtime railroad dispatcher who, after retirement, spent some three decades serving his church and his community, died Feb. 3 of heart failure at the College Manor assisted-living facility in Lutherville. He was 90.

Though born in Anguilla, Miss., Mr. Martak moved to the Govans area as a young boy and considered himself a lifelong Baltimorean. He was educated at city public schools and graduated from City College, then spent 38 years as a movement director and train dispatcher, first for the Pennsylvania Railroad and later for its successors, Conrail and Amtrak. He retired in August 1980.

In retirement, Mr. Martak devoted himself to volunteer work, primarily through his church, Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Hamilton. He was so active in so many community-oriented groups, including the Outreach Committee, Church Refugee Service and the vestry, that he became known by the nickname "Mr. Outreach," according to his son, Jesse Martak Jr. of Ellicott City.

Mr. Martak was a co-founder of the Northeast Food Pantry on Harford Road, serving as its chief organizer and fundraiser. After becoming ill with prostate cancer last year, Mr. Martak passed those commitments on to his son and daughter-in-law, David and Condict Martak of Rosedale, who continue his work at the pantry.

Mr. Martak was also a volunteer at St. Paul's Place Soup Kitchen and the St. Vincent DePaul Society, and spent 17 years on the board of directors of HARBEL, an interfaith committee assisting the poor in the Harford and Belair roads areas. "He had a heart for people in need and did whatever it took to help them deal with their crisis situations," said Jesse Martak Jr.

Last July, 163 friends and family members showed up at his son David's home to celebrate Mr. Martak's 90th birthday.

For his community service, Mr. Martak received numerous awards and citations, including eight from Baltimore mayors Kurt L. Schmoke and Martin O'Malley. He was a Mason for 61 years, a member of Liberty Lodge No. 219.

Because of this week's snow, a memorial service for Mr. Martak will be scheduled for a later date.

In addition to his sons David and Jesse Jr., Mr. Martak is survived by another son, Robert W. Martak of Perry Hall; three daughters, Carole Giordano of Shrewsbury, Pa., Lois E. Poole of Dundalk and Ruth L. Davis of White Marsh; 18 grandchildren; 32 great-grandchildren; and four great-great-grandchildren. His wife of 67 years, the former Ruth E. Biggs, died in 2005.

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