Frank A. Chrest, a special-education teacher who taught in city public schools for nearly 40 years, died Thursday of pneumonia at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. He was 97.
Born in Baltimore, the son of a Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad supervisor and a florist, Mr. Chrest was raised in Hampden.
After graduating from Polytechnic Institute in 1930, Mr. Chrest had hoped for a career in engineering but abandoned that pursuit because of the Depression and enrolled at what is now Towson University, where he earned a teaching degree.
In the late 1930s, he began teaching special-education students in Canton before joining the faculty of Nathaniel Ramsey Junior High School, at Ashton and Smallwood streets in Southwest Baltimore, where he spent most of his career until retiring in 1972.
"He enjoyed telling his family stories about his teaching experiences, including tales of field trips gone awry, confiscated comic books and baseball cards, and, most of all, inspiring the most challenged of students to appreciate reading and math," said a son, Robert Chrest of Bel Air.
An avid reader, Mr. Chrest could recite portions of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" from memory.
"His students loved it," his son said.
During the summer months when school wasn't in session, Mr. Chrest worked as a house painter.
The longtime Overlea resident, who had lived since 2001 at Quail Run, an assisted-living facility in Carney, also enjoyed vacationing with his family in Ocean City.
"He was truly a summer baby," his son said. "He enjoyed nothing more than listening to an Orioles game on the radio over a picnic table piled with steamed crabs that he and his sons had caught."
Mr. Chrest also enjoyed collecting crab memorabilia, as well as coins and stamps.
His wife of 45 years, the former Lillian Christ, died in 1984.
Mr. Chrest was a communicant of St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church in Overlea, where a Mass of Christian burial was offered Monday.
Also surviving are two other sons, Joseph Chrest of Hampstead and Thomas Chrest of Rossville; a daughter, Anne Covahey of Perry Hall; 17 grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren; and a great-great-granddaughter. Another daughter, Regina Kerrigan, died in 1978.