Walter C. "Neil" Pohlhaus Jr. dies at age 83

Member of 1950 Hopkins championship team was a lacrosse coach for 30 years at St. Paul's

August 20, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Walter Cornelius "Neil" Pohlhaus Jr., a retired Realtor and lacrosse coach who had been a member of the fabled 1950 Johns Hopkins champion lacrosse team, died Monday of Parkinson's disease at his North Baltimore home.

He was 83.

Mr. Pohlhaus, the son of an Alex. Brown & Sons stockbroker and a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised on Wickford Road in Roland Park.

After graduating in 1945 from St. Paul's School, Mr. Pohlhaus was drafted into the Navy and was in basic training at the Bainbridge naval training center in Cecil County when the war ended.

He served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Tarawa as a signalman during the ship's postwar Pacific cruise.

After being discharged in 1946, he enrolled at the Johns Hopkins University, where he played varsity lacrosse as a talented midfielder and earned a bachelor's degree in 1950 in business administration.

Mr. Pohlhaus and six of his lacrosse teammates at Hopkins had earlier played the sport at St. Paul's, where they were undefeated for four years.

They replicated their earlier success from St. Paul's at Homewood Field, where they never lost a college game between 1947 and 1950.

"They were the Magnificent Seven," said Bill Tanton, former Evening Sun sports editor and columnist. "They never lost a game at St. Paul's or Hopkins. How's that for a record?"

"When I made the varsity lacrosse team my sophomore year, I ran with Neil as second midfielder at Hopkins," said Bob Scott, who was later lacrosse coach and athletic director at Hopkins. "He was a mentor for me, who was nothing more than a skinny kid from Forest Park High School."

He said that Mr. Pohlhaus was an "integral part of those teams both at St. Paul's and Hopkins during those years."

"Neil just had a great sort of way of enabling you. He guided me along. He encouraged me," recalled Mr. Scott. "He was a supportive teammate and had real leadership ability."

After leaving Hopkins, he became a stockbroker with Merrill Lynch & Co., and later worked for the old Robert Garrett & Sons and Alex. Brown & Sons, while continuing to play lacrosse for seven years with the Mount Washington Lacrosse Club.

In 1955, Mr. Pohlhaus was asked by Gene Corrigan, then St. Paul's lacrosse coach, to assist him in coaching the sport.

It was a relationship that lasted for the next 30 years, including a short stint when Mr. Pohlhaus coached at the University of Baltimore.

A few years after Mr. Corrigan's departure, his successor, George Mitchell, asked Mr. Pohlhaus to stay on.

"They compiled a winning record, captured championships, molded young players and continued the legacy of lacrosse excellence at St. Paul's," said a son, Walter C. "Neil" Pohlhaus III of Timonium.

"As far as I know, Neil was never on the payroll. He did it because he loved lacrosse and he loved St. Paul's. He had never been a brilliant star but was simply a good, solid player," said Mr. Mitchell, who now lives in Ocean Pines. "He loved the game and was extremely knowledgeable about it."

He credits Mr. Pohlhaus with the innovation of the long-stick midfielder, which today is a common position.

Mr. Mitchell recalled his friend's many abilities working with the students. "He was very patient when he was working with the kids and was never a screamer. He went to the other extreme," Mr. Mitchell said. "If he saw how he could help a kid, he'd then walk over and do it."

"He'd put his arm around a kid and talked to them," Mr. Scott said.

In the early 1970s, Mr. Pohlhaus confronted his alcoholism.

"After going through rehabilitation at Hidden Brook, he changed careers and wiped the slate clean. He dropped out of the Baltimore Country Club and the Merchants Club, places where he had done his drinking," said his wife of 33 years, the former Jeannie Downs, who was in real estate sales at Hill & Co.

He was an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous and had recently celebrated 36 years of sobriety, his wife said. "He was very proud of that," she said.

After leaving Alex. Brown & Sons, he earned his real estate license in 1975 and went to work at Piper & Co. with his wife, who together formed one of the early husband-wife real estate teams with the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.

Mr. Pohlhaus, who lived in Parkton until moving to Elkridge Estates in 2005, retired seven years ago from Hill & Co.

He was a longtime volunteer at Paul's Place Outreach Center in Southwest Baltimore and for the past 20 years had driven donated food in his pickup truck from Eddie's Market to the center in the 1100 block of Ward St.

He also collected and delivered donated clothing and other items to the center.

Mr. Pohlhaus was an avid waterfowl hunter and golfer and had played the historic Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland. He also had racked up three holes-in-one during his lifetime.

He had been a season ticket holder for the old Baltimore Colts and the Orioles. In recent years, he had been a Ravens fan.

Mr. Pohlhaus was a member of the Hopkins Club and the Copperleaf Golf Club in Bonita Springs, Fla.

"Everywhere Neil went, he lit up a room," his wife said.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday in the chapel at St. Paul's School, 11152 Falls Road, Brooklandville.

Also surviving are another son, Dr. Steven R. Pohlhaus of Homeland; two daughters, Cynthia Wilhoite of Hampstead and Lisa Tillman of Lauraville; two stepsons, Richard W. Mitchell Jr. of Marathon Key, Fla., and Ty M. Mitchell of Hanover, Pa.; a brother, John C. Pohlhaus of Claiborne; and 12 grandchildren. An earlier marriage to Joan Brawner ended in divorce.

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