John Francis Feezer, World War II veteran and entrepreneur, dies at 97

and Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

John Francis “Jack” Feezer Jr., a World War II veteran, entrepreneur and philanthropist, died of kidney failure Wednesday at Carroll Hospice in Westminster. He was 97.

A lifelong resident of Maryland, Mr. Feezer was born in Sykesville to John Feezer Sr. and Frances Bauer Feezer. The family moved to Randallstown, where Mr. Feezer began working with his father, a part-time vegetable farmer and huckster, selling produce out of a truck in Baltimore City. He would carry the benefits of hard work, instilled in him by his parents, throughout his life, relatives said.

Mr. Feezer stopped attending traditional school after the 10th grade. He took night courses in diesel mechanics — a new technology at the time — which led to a job as “engine man” at the U.S. Naval Experimental Station. After being drafted into the U.S. Navy during World War II, he was assigned to be a diesel mechanic aboard a landing ship in the Pacific Ocean.

He was a part of Operation Olympic, which would have been deployed to fight in Japan had the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki not led to the country’s surrender.

Upon returning to the Experimental Station after the war, Mr. Feezer took on a string of business ventures. Among them was the John F. Feezer Co. in 1965, and several years later, Interstate Feezer Joint Venture with his business partner and friend George Strauss. The two infrastructure companies are responsible for landmarks around Maryland, including a mile-long pipeline from Loch Raven Reservoir, a section of Baltimore’s Southwest Diversion sewer system and a bridge with the infrastructure for Pier 6 in the Inner Harbor.

He didn’t have many hobbies, according to his friends and family. Instead, Mr. Feezer focused on his businesses and philanthropic goals, closely following the stock market, keeping fit and staying active in his church.

“Every day he was reading The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. He always knew what the stock quotes were,” said his daughter, Nancy Parker of Baltimore. “Even in hospice, we were bringing him the quotes on stocks that he liked.”

In 1972 Mr. Feezer took on the first of several real estate ventures, which would become a major part of his business career. Some of his biggest projects included the development of a commercial lot in Eldersburg where Home Depot, Kohl’s, Martin’s and other retail stores are located, as well as the development of a 100,000-square-foot office building near Fort Meade.

Mike Snyder, who was Mr. Feezer’s attorney for 25 years and was close to his children, said that following their retirement, Mr. Feezer and Mr. Strauss liked to take drives and reminisce about the things they had built. In terms of Mr. Feezer’s real estate transactions, Mr. Snyder said, “All he cared about was that the deal was fair. That’s the kind of person he was.”

One of Mr. Feezer’s lasting legacies is the R. Wayne Feezer Memorial Foundation, which he established after the unexpected death of his firstborn son in 1998. Mrs. Parker said the foundation raises about $100,000 annually for local organizations including the Boys & Girls Club, the 4-H youth development organization, hospice care, and programs to benefit children with autism as well as college scholarships for members of his church.

“He was just a wonderful person to everybody — so calming to everyone,” Mrs. Parker said.

He was also instrumental in the renovation of Ward’s Chapel United Methodist Church, of which Mr. Feezer was a member since age 3. According to Mr. Snyder, the church was badly in need of renovations, having outgrown its building since its last renovation in the 1950s. Mr. Snyder said Mr. Feezer donated the largest portion of the money needed for the renovation, and worked with church leaders on the financing for the remainder. The church was able to pay off the cost in less than five years.

“You could not find a finer Christian man than him.” Mr. Snyder said.

Mr. Feezer served on the board of directors of the Commercial and Farmers Bank and on the board of trustees and finance committee of his church. He also served on the board of directors of the Baltimore-Washington Methodist Conference and the finance committee of the Baltimore Council of The Boy Scouts of America. He was a member of Freedom Masonic Lodge A.F. & A.M. 112, where he received his 70-year pin in May 2016.

At the age of 92 Mr. Feezer wrote his own memoir, titled “A Life Well-Lived, Well-Loved, Well-Earned,” in which he discussed his family, businesses and the developments he helped produce throughout his life. The book also contains a section featuring tributes written to Mr. Feezer by those who knew him.

“He was definitely a man of integrity,” Mrs. Parker said. “He was always there for anyone with a problem to come to. He would help anyone with anything.”

Visitations are scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. Monday, and 1 to 3 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Haight Funeral Home & Chapel in Sykesville. A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Wards Chapel United Methodist Church.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include Mr. Feezer’s wife of 75 years, Beulah Mae Winslow, of Baltimore, son, John Francis III, of Baltimore; six grandchildren; and 16 great-grandchildren.

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