Kenneth Donald Pezzulla dies at 81

Towson attorney helped immigrants buy homes, collected evidence for the Nuremberg tribunals

September 02, 2010|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Sun reporter

Kenneth Donald Pezzulla, an attorney who assisted immigrants in buying their first homes and later helped develop an Ocean City condominium, died of a sarcoma Aug. 26 at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was 81 and lived in Lutherville.

Born in Endicott, N.Y., he played football and basketball while a student at Union Endicott High School and attended Augusta Military Academy in Fort Defiance, Va.

He joined the Army and was assigned to Munich in post- World War II Germany. He conducted research and gathered evidence for the Nuremberg war crimes trials as a member of the 17th Airborne Division's War Crimes Group.

"He went through the Dachau and Buchenwald camps and interviewed soldiers, guards and the people in nearby towns. He spoke with the witnesses and the people who had been in the camps themselves," said his son, James S. Pezzulla of Timonium. "This was the event where he became interested in law. The things he saw in Germany — the scope and the meaning of what he experienced — had an impact on him at such a young age."

Family members said he toured numerous cities that had been bombed during the war. While on a trip to Italy, he joined a tour of the Vatican and had an informal private audience with Pope Pius XII. When the pontiff asked him where he was from, Mr. Pezzulla said New York. He later said the pope asked him, "How are the Yankees doing this year?"

After the war, he returned to New York and earned a journalism degree at Syracuse University. He then moved to Baltimore, where other family members lived. He earned a degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 1957 and was admitted to the Maryland bar that year. He was honored at his law school's 2007 commencement ceremonies.

"He was an excellent estate attorney," said Paul Ventura, former chief deputy Baltimore County register of wills. "He was knowledgeable and fair."

Mr. Pezzulla became a trust officer for the old Mercantile Safe-Deposit and Trust Co. in downtown Baltimore. In 1960 he joined the Towson law firm of Coady and Farley, and in 1964 he became an assistant city solicitor. Family members said that as part of his duties, he litigated cases for the city and negotiated the annual lease for the Baltimore Colts at Memorial Stadium.

"He also did the leases for the merchants at Lexington Market," his son said. "Everybody seemed to know him — the fish guy, the peanut guy, the vegetable guy."

From 1968 to 1974 he was a member of the Alpert, Lichter, Coleman, Pezzulla and Rogers law firm in downtown Baltimore and was the practice's managing partner.

In 1974 he established his own law firm in Towson, which remains today as Pezzulla and Pezzulla. His son, James, joined him in 1995, and his wife, the former Rita DeGirolamo, was his legal secretary and assistant. Mr. Pezzulla worked five days a week until he underwent surgery in June.

"He disliked going into a courtroom," said Ron Mack, a friend and client who lives in Salisbury. "He believed that things should be handled peacefully and amicably."

Family members said Mr. Pezzulla was legal counsel, president and board member of the old LaCorona Building and Loan Association in East Baltimore. The thrift association had ties to the old Crown, Cork and Seal Corp. on Eastern Avenue, and its members were often Italian families, including immigrants.

"Italians couldn't get loans through other banks, and this was the way these people could buy a house and pursue their dream," his son said, recalling that his father was often paid in fresh figs, homemade pasta and cookies.

"He was a great negotiator," said Luigi Coppola, chief executive officer of the Strapazza restaurant group based in Towson. "I learned so many things about business from him."

Family members said Mr. Pezzulla did not like taking long vacations and preferred day trips. He was nevertheless part of a team whose members developed the Antigua, an early high-rise condominium building in Ocean City.

Mr. Pezzulla was a past president of the civic association of Howard Park, where he lived in the 1960s and early 1970s. He was a former president and legal counsel to the Valley Garth Association in Lutherville. He was also a coach of youth basketball and soccer teams at the Lutherville-Timonium Recreation Council.

He was a patron of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Opera Company. He was a Ravens season ticket holder and was a fan of the Colts, Baltimore Bullets, New York Yankees and Orioles. He also followed college lacrosse and often rooted for Duke University. He also enjoyed attending his grandchildren's musical concerts and sports events.

A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Church of the Nativity, 1800 Vista Lane in Timonium, where he was a member.

In addition to his son and his wife of 57 years, survivors include another son, John M. Pezzulla of Parkton; a daughter, Anita Pezzulla Ritter of Hanover, Pa; a half-brother, David Pezzulla of Parkville; a stepmother, Paula Pezzulla of Parkville; and seven grandchildren.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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