Gerald Allen Elkins, a retired Department of Planning map maker and graphic artist who detailed Baltimore's transformation for more than four decades, died of cancer Nov. 28 at his Ocean Pines home. The former Overlea resident was 65.
"What struck me most about Gerry, besides his considerable graphic design talent, was his positive attitude and consistency in being a real team player," said Baltimore City Planning Director Thomas J. Stosur. "He would not only create the striking maps and graphics, but he would mount them professionally, advise on setup and display, transport the maps and supplies to meetings, set up the room, help out at the meeting, break down the room after the meeting, then go drinking with the rest of the team afterward!"
Born in Richlands, Va., he was the son of Winfred Elkins, a General Motors worker, and Hazel Owens Elkins, a homemaker. Family members said the Elkins family came to Baltimore to work at its industries when there was little work in Virginia coal mines. Mr. Elkins was raised in Essex and was a 1966 graduate of Kenwood High School.
A Kenwood art teacher took an interest in his ability to draw and paint and helped him get a job at the Baltimore City Department of Planning, where he worked for more than 40 years. He retired in 2008 after having moved to the Department of Public Works.
"He had the ability to grasp concepts in drafting and mechanical drawing," said his brother, Wayne Mitchell Elkins of Salinas, Calif. "As a child, he was interested in race cars, which he drew. He could do sign painting effortlessly. What impressed his teachers is that he could do all his work freehand. He had a steady hand. It was an extension of his demeanor. He was a very calm person."
He met his wife, Amy Susan Hasson, who was also a Planning Department employee, on the job.
"He made the base maps that were changed over the years for nearly every city project," she said.
"Gerald was a wonderful friend and colleague," said a former Planning Department co-worker, Joyce Leviton, a Baltimore resident. "He was kind, smart, talented, gracious and patient. He made everyone else look good."
She recalled that community planners made annual presentations to members of the City Council and on occasion to the mayor.
"We would just tell Gerald the message we were trying to convey and the projects we wanted to highlight and he would translate it into a beautiful map," Ms. Leviton said. "He was famous for his asterisks, yellow for housing, red for commercial. Gerald was an artist before computer graphics arrived. He captured what was happening in such a definitive way that the council members would ask him to make another copy for them so that they could display it in their offices."
Ms. Leviton, who is now an assistant to Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, said Mr. Elkins worked well with children.
"I remember when we were planning for the reuse of the Memorial Stadium site, I brought my niece and nephew to work one day. Gerald set them up with a map of the stadium site and colored markers and asked them to draw what they thought should go there," she said. "They started drawing yellow stars for houses, red stars for shops, a green star for a park and a blue star for a hospital. Gerald was a great teacher, and we thought they came up with a great mixed-use project."
She said Mr. Elkins contributed to the spirit of the Planning Department.
"We talked about how we were the Planning Department family," she said. "We had a softball team, the Blues, and for a short time a basketball team. Gerald did the graphics. I remember he made a cone hat for the cheerleaders."
A Gerald A. Elkins Memorial Scholarship for Urban and Environmental Planning has been established at the Salisbury University Foundation Inc.
A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Marikle Chapel of the Annunciation at Notre Dame of Maryland University, 4701 N. Charles St.
In addition to his wife of 25 years and brother, survivors include three sons, Anthony John Elkins of Joppatowne, Daniel Carl Elkins of Bel Air and Mitchell Shanahan Elkins of Ocean Pines; a daughter, Megan Elizabeth Elkins, also of Ocean Pines; a sister, Patricia Gail Elmos of Perry Hall; and three grandchildren. A previous marriage ended in divorce.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun