Albert Perlow, a former owner of one of the city's oldest auto-body repair businesses, died of pneumonia Oct. 13 at Sinai Hospital. The Pikesville resident was 87.
Born in Baltimore and raised on Appleton Street, he was the son of David Perlow and Bertha Perlow, Russian immigrants. He was a 1943 graduate of City College and belonged to Sigma Alpha Rho, a service fraternity, in which he remained active.
He enlisted in the Navy after graduation and attended Midshipmen's School at Notre Dame University and took courses at Duke University and George Washington University. He served in China, Japan and the Philippines aboard the USS Marmora as a supply officer.
When he was 20, Mr. Perlow started dating his future wife, Barbara "Bobbie" Penn, whose family owned Penn Brothers Chrysler Plymouth. They married Dec. 25, 1948, at the old Bluefield Catering Hall.
He enrolled at the University of Maryland School of Law and studied for two years, but assumed ownership and management of his father's Cathedral Body and Fender Works, which was advertised as the "oldest independent body and fender shop in Baltimore" after its 1914 founding. The business was on Cathedral Street near Eager.
"The family needed help running the business side of the company, so he left law school early," said his granddaughter, Becky Perlow of Washington, D.C.
He worked with his father and brother, Jerome "Yannie" Perlow, who did the repair work. The family originally repaired auto radiators, then moved on to body and fender work. Among the original partners was Joseph Weinberg, the father of philanthropist Harry Weinberg. Joseph Weinberg later left the Perlows and set up his own shop.
Mr. Perlow ran the business side of the operation. He did the estimates and worked with the insurance companies. He ordered parts and did the billing. He and his brother enlarged the shop, moved it to Bonaparte Avenue near 25th Street and later to Belvedere Avenue in Northwest Baltimore, where it remains in business today under different ownership.
"Albert met thousands of Baltimoreans, but while most people never give their auto repair guy a second thought, his customers never forgot his kindness and honesty," his granddaughter said.
She said that her grandfather became well known. "I get asked, 'Are you related to Al Perlow?' and then they say, 'Oh, he repaired my car,'" she said.
"He loved what he did. It seemed like everyone came through his shop when they needed their car fixed. If you were his customer, he remembered your name, your wife's name and your car make," said Maury Bass, a friend who lives in Pikesville. "He was fun to be around. He all but stepped out of a Damon Runyon story. He was a gambler and loved to go to Las Vegas or Atlantic City. But he loved people and his family more than anything else."
His son, Howard Perlow, who lives in Pikesville, said his father was known for fair estimates.
"He and his brother did very good work. He never wanted an unhappy customer," his son said. "I was working with him one summer when a customer said he did not like the paint. My father said, 'Bring it back. I'll repaint it.'"
In his free time, Mr. Perlow followed Maryland thoroughbred racing. He and partners owned numerous horses, including Alert Vimy, Mary's Hunt and Royal Chain. At Pimlico Race Course, attired in a plaid sports coat and a fedora with a feather in the brim, he joined friends, including former Giant food stores owner Israel "Izzy" Cohen. He was a regular at the track, and Pimlico general manager Chick Lang had races named in Mr. Perlow's honor on his birthday. He was also close with trainer Hubert "Sonny" Hine.
Mr. Perlow filled his office with photographs taken in the winner's circle. He also invested in trotting horses. He liked cards and games of poker, pitch and gin rummy. He played several nights a week.
Mr. Perlow and his brother also bought homes and commercial property to lease. His granddaughter said they earned a reputation for maintaining them well and having good relationships with tenants.
He was active in the Masons and chaired the automotive division of the Associated Jewish Federation of Baltimore for many years. He was a former member of Beth El and Beth Tfiloh and was a current member of Shaarei Tfiloh congregation.
Services were Oct. 15 at Sol Levinson & Bros.
In addition to his son and granddaughter, survivors include two other sons, Ira Perlow of Waltham, Mass., and Jeffrey Perlow of Reisterstown; a daughter, Bonnie Perlow of Reisterstown; eight grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. His wife died in 2001.