Michael T. McCarthy Sr., 69, advocate for foster children

Longtime vacuum cleaner salesman for Electrolux

  • Michael T. McCarthy
Michael T. McCarthy
January 30, 2013|By Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun

Michael T. McCarthy Sr., a longtime Electrolux vacuum cleaner salesman who helped foster children find homes in his retirement, died on Jan. 23 of sudden cardiac arrest at the Baltimore-Washington Medical Center.

The longtime Cockeysville resident was 69.

Raised in Philadelphia, the sixth of seven siblings, Mr. McCarthy graduated from North Catholic High School there in 1961 and spent about nine years, starting in his late teens, as a brother with the Oblates of St. Francis DeSales in Wernersville, Pa.

There, he was responsible for taking care of the grounds and working on the farm, according to his daughter, Jennifer Jones.

After serving in the Oblates, Mr. McCarthy moved in 1969, with his family, to Maryland. He married Carolyn Dorman in 1971 at the Cathedral of Mary our Queen. They had two children, and raised their family in Cockeysville.

In 1973, Mr. McCarthy graduated from the Dale Carnegie Graduate Program, where, his daughter said, he learned to live the "cardinal rule" of how to treat others.

"It was like a mantra to him, because he was really drawn to serving others," Mrs. Jones said. "It really molded his life, because it's all about how to treat people, how to influence people."

Those skills came in handy during Mr. McCarthy's 30-year-career as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman for Electrolux, a job he loved and where his successes earned him trips around the world, the affectionate title "Big Mike" and a 1994 profile in The Baltimore Sun.

"He loved meeting new people and learning about their lives," Mrs. Jones said. She said that as a result of his success in sales, Mr. McCarthy earned company awards that enabled his wife and him to visit major American cities, cruise the Caribbean and visit Australia and other countries.

The Sun profile documented Mr. McCarthy's journey in neighborhoods across the state in an effort to increase his sales from 37 to 50 in five days, in order to win a trip.

"There's no salesman in the world who doesn't get discouraged," he said at the time. "You just have to have the right attitude. It takes a lot of self-discipline. You have no excuses. There's just you, the street, and a bunch of houses."

By the end of that particular trek, Mr. McCarthy had secured his trip to Mexico.

Mr. McCarthy retired from Electrolux in 2000, but embraced a new way to help people, his daughter said. At an expo for senior citizens, Mr. McCarthy struck up a conversation at the Court Appointed Special Advocates booth, and in 2010 became a volunteer advocate, helping troubled youths in their transition from foster homes.

His daughter said that Mr. McCarthy was lucky enough to see many of "his boys" adopted into families.

"He did that because he had two children and grandchildren, and we were lucky enough to be on the decent path," Mrs. Jones said. "He thought, 'I did a good job with my kids, I want to give that to someone else.'"

Mr. McCarthy's other experiences also came full circle to enrich his life. Helping maintain the grounds of St. Francis DeSales led to his love of gardening, and later in life he often worked in his gardening plots above County Home Park in Cockeysville.

Mr. McCarthy also enjoyed watching Ravens and Orioles games, and watching his grandchildren participate in sports.

"He was all about his family," Mrs. Jones said. "He would never miss a reason to celebrate someone else. He was always everybody's cheerleader. He would never count anyone out."

In addition to his daughter, Mr. McCarthy is survived by his wife, Carolyn A. Dorman McCarthy; a son, Michael T. McCarthy Jr. and his wife Nancy; and grandchildren Ethan, Claire, Gideon and Reid.

A funeral Mass will be held in Church of the Nativity, 20 E. Ridgely Road, Timonium on Monday, Jan. 28 at 10 a.m.


An earlier version of this obituary misidentified Mr. McCarthy's daughter. The Sun regrets the error.

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