Rev. Charles A. Kuszmaul

Former minister was also an educator and master mason

September 04, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Sun reporter

The Rev. Charles Arthur Kuszmaul, a retired Baptist minister, educator and master mason who restored the crumbling brickwork at the Edgar Allan Poe House, died Monday of Parkinson's disease at his home in Atglen, Pa.

The former longtime Fallston resident, who moved to Atglen in 2004, was 92.

Mr. Kuszmaul was born in Baltimore and raised in Govans. He attended City College and graduated in 1936 from the Franklin Day School in the old YMCA Building at Franklin and Cathedral streets.

"He was born into a family of brick masons. His grandfather and uncles were all master masons and contractors," said a daughter, Marcia J. Kuszmaul of Seattle.

"As a young man, his summer job was working with his uncles laying brick. They taught him his trade," Ms. Kuszmaul said. "From that point on, it became his avocation and vocation."

He attended Mars Hill College in Mars Hill, N.C., and earned a bachelor's degree in 1943 from Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

Mr. Kuszmaul was a 1946 graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and was ordained a Baptist minister the next year at the First Baptist Church of Mount Rainer in Prince George's County.

Between 1946 and 1962, Mr. Kuszmaul founded and helped build churches in the Baltimore- Washington area, including First Baptist Church in Beltsville in 1951, and later Seabrook Baptist Church and West Lanham Baptist Church, now United Baptist Church in New Carrollton.

The last church Mr. Kuszmaul helped launch before retiring as a minister in 1962 was Cockeysville Baptist Church.

Mr. Kuszmaul then launched a second career in 1968 as a teacher when he joined the faculty of Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School as a brick shop instructor.

As a hands-on project, each year Mr. Kuszmaul had his masonry students build a house in his brick shop. Once completed, it was dismantled.

In addition to teaching, Mr. Kuszmaul also worked as a bricklayer, working on numerous buildings, including Fallston General Hospital.

In the early 1980s, when the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum on North Amity Street in West Baltimore needed restoration of its crumbling brickwork, Mr. Kuszmaul volunteered after being contacted by museum officials.

What faced Mr. Kuszmaul was restoration of the foundation as well as a nearby wall.

"The challenge was to match and replicate the look and feel of the original construction of the house," his daughter said.

"Charles told me it was in pretty bad shape, with missing bricks that had been taken for souvenirs," said his wife of 68 years and college sweetheart, the former Hazel R. Bell, a retired educator and librarian.

At first, Mr. Kuszmaul thought he would be joined in the work by several of his students, but in the end, he completed the restoration on his own.

"He was there totally alone on that project all through the summer. Every day, he'd drive from Fallston to Baltimore and go to work. He wouldn't even take time to eat lunch, and then would drive back in the early evening," Mrs. Kuszmaul said.

"That was his nature. He promised to do the project, and he did," she said.

Her husband had some formidable problems to overcome, such as materials being pilfered from the worksite and fresh brickwork meddled with.

"He never gave up, though, and loved it," his wife said. "However, there was no monetary award for having given up his summer."

Mr. Kuszmaul was honored after the work was completed by then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer, who named him one of "Baltimore's Best."

As a longtime member of Upper Crossroads Baptist Church in Baldwin, Mr. Kuszmaul went to Haiti with other church members to help build a school in the late 1980s.

Mr. Kuszmaul particularly enjoyed building houses, and especially fireplaces.

"His wife was the librarian at Arlington Baptist School where our daughters went to school, and we were living in Randallstown at the time when he did some repair work for us," said Dr. Varughese Kuruvilla, a retired Baltimore surgeon and longtime friend.

After Dr. Kuruvilla and his wife purchased property in Timonium, they turned to Mr. Kuszmaul to build their new brick home.

"He is a nice and great man and became a part of our family," Dr. Kuruvilla recalled. "He's very meticulous, honest and hardworking. He did a very good job, and I never had any worries when he was here. I've always had a very high opinion of him."

"While doing the masonry at their home, my father had his only accident. A board kicked up on his scaffold, and he fell off and landed in a pile of bricks," his daughter said.

"He suffered a broken nose, facial lacerations, broken ribs and a punctured lung. Dr. Kuruvilla drove him to the hospital and sewed him up," Ms. Kuszmaul said.

Mr. Kuszmaul's motto was "Keep doing good," family members said, and he was a man of many talents and interests. He was an accomplished musician on the musical saw, which is played with a violin bow.

He was also a calligrapher, sign painter and beekeeper. He was an avid gardener and built a wall at his home of stones he had gathered, including one that looked like the head of a dog.

"It became a favorite of people who drove by the house," his daughter said.

He had been a Boy Scout leader and enjoyed running until he was in his late 80s.

Services were held Friday.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Kuszmaul is survived by two other daughters, Nanette R. Williams of Port Charlotte, Fla., and Charlene F. Leaman of Atglen; six grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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