Joseph "Jerry" Hankoff, a retired insurance agency owner and a decorated World War II bombardier-navigator, died April 24 of complications from dementia at the Edgewater Pointe Estates nursing facility in Boca Raton, Fla. He was 91 and had lived in Pikesville.
Born in Baltimore and raised on Linden Avenue, he was a 1938 City College graduate. He attended the University of Baltimore and studied law and accounting.
He enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1943 and trained as a navigator-bombardier. Assigned to the Pacific, he flew 37 missions.
According to a 1944 Baltimore Sun article, he was involved in a battle with Japanese fighter planes after he and his fellow crew members had raided Tokyo aboard a B-29 Superfortress. The news account said he was "sitting in the nose blister of the silvery skyship" when enemy fighters attacked his plane.
In the 40-minute engagement, an enemy plane crashed into his, causing the loss of an engine and breaking a blister window, causing the plane to depressurize. When 30 enemy pilots saw that his plane had been partially crippled, they concentrated their fire on his engines, the article said.
His plane made it out over the Japanese coast. He then discovered his compass had been broken, and he navigated by the stars back to a base on Saipan. He said in the article that the temperature in the cabin reached zero degrees.
In recognition of his actions, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, among other decorations.
After the war, Mr. Hankoff started in the insurance industry and sold life insurance for Prudential. He initially walked a route in East Baltimore and collected payments.
He opened his own agency, Hankoff & Co., in Owings Mills in 1965. He worked until 1996 and moved to Florida in 1997.
Mr. Hankoff was an avid map collector, and he played golf and jogged at the old Chestnut Ridge Country Club, where he had been a member. He was a Baltimore Colts fan and organized bus trips to games at Memorial Stadium. He also coached in the Wellwood Little League.
He was a member of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.
A memorial service will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday at 12520 Valley Pines Drive in Reisterstown.
Survivors include his wife of 66 years, the former Mimi Hart; a son, Steven Hankoff of Reisterstown; two daughters, Wendy Hartzler of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Susan Estrella of Southern Shores, N.C.; a brother, Dr. Leon Hankoff of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and nine grandchildren.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun