The son of parents from Italy and Scotland, John Franzone Jr. was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and later moved with his family to Fort Montgomery in upstate New York.
It was while living there near Bear Mountain that Mr. Franzone began his lifelong passion for the outdoors as he roamed the fields and woods fishing and hunting.
As the Depression deepened, the family was forced to return to Brooklyn, where they settled in a cold-water flat.
Mr. Franzone was a graduate of the Manhattan Aviation Trade School, where he studied aeronautical engineering.
"When his mother died in a charity hospital when he was 19, he climbed Bear Mountain and declared to God that he would never be poor again," said Julie Franzone, his former daughter-in-law, who lives in Timonium.
"After his mother died, he put everything in the car and drove to Baltimore and went to work as a draftsman at the Glenn L. Martin Co.," said his son, John B. Franzone of Timonium, who is also a member of the Maryland Racing Commission and its former commissioner.
While working at Martin during World War II, Mr. Franzone became acquainted with Robert Brickett, who also worked at the company's Middle River plant.
Both men shared an interest in the developing field of plastics. In 1946, they and a silent partner, Bill Ebauer, established Fawn Plastics Inc. in a two-story garage in the 2900 block of Hamilton Ave., with one injection-molding machine.
"It was the beginning of injection molding, and the industry was in its infancy," said his son.
By 1953, the two men were able to leave their jobs at the Martin Co. and concentrate full time on developing Fawn Industries.
The business was so successful they relocated in 1956 to a 50,000-square-foot plant at York and Roundridge roads in Timonium, opposite the northern end of the state fairgrounds.
"Mr. Brickett was the manufacturing guy, whereas my father focused on sales and the customers. He was upbeat and a people person, and that was a result of his upbringing," his son said.
In the late 1970s, Mr. Franzone bought out his partners and expanded the business, which had grown to 1,000 workers and specialized in custom-injection molding that used laser technology to fashion parts for the automotive industry.
The Timonium plant closed in the early 1980s as production shifted to plants he built in Rocky Mount, N.C., Middlesex, N.C., and Maryville, Tenn. The company maintains a sales and engineering office in Detroit, and its headquarters remain in Hunt Valley.
Today, its production operations are based in China and Mexico.
Mr. Franzone guided Fawn Industries by the overriding principle of "Always do the right thing," his son said.
"He'd say, 'I don't care if some guy is a multimillionaire. Is he doing the right thing? If you do that, in the end you will prevail,' " said his son, who has been CEO of Fawn Industries since 1985.
After turning over the business to his son, Mr. Franzone started another business that embraced his lifelong interest in thoroughbred horse racing.
He purchased a 100-acre horse farm in Bel Air that he renovated and named Flying High Farm, where he bred thoroughbred racehorses with a daughter, Paige Schultz, who also lives in Bel Air.