Dr. Walter A. Rafalko, UB law school professor, dies

Walter A. Rafalko

Walter A. "Wally" Rafalko, a decorated World War II veteran and a former professor of law who also had been associate dean of the University of Baltimore Law School, died July 28 of congestive heart failure at Stella Maris Hospice.

The longtime Timonium resident was 91.

The son of Polish immigrant factory workers, Dr. Rafalko was born and raised in Stoughton, Mass. His high school football prowess at Stoughton High School earned him a scholarship to St. Louis University, where he was quarterback on the college football team and assistant coach.

"As a child of poor Polish immigrants, he saw little hope in going to college and would probably have followed his parents into factory work," said a daughter, Virginia R. Canter of Bethesda. "Several teachers who were interested in him helped him get the scholarship and it embarked him on a lifelong journey as a student and educator."

His education at St. Louis University School of Law was interrupted during World War II when he was inducted into the Army in 1942.

Dr. Rafalko served with the 29th Division's 747th Tank Battalion that landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

"The tank he rode in on as part of the second wave, which was combined with the third wave because the tide was coming in, hit a land mine and blew up underneath him," said Mrs. Canter. "After successfully boarding another tank, he was able to make it to shore uninjured."

Dr. Rafalko was injured in November 1944 escaping from a burning tank and early the next year was wounded in combat and decorated with the Purple Heart.

While recuperating in a U.S. Military Hospital in San Quentin, France, he met and fell in love with his future wife, the former Katherine Kinney, an Army nurse who was caring for him.

"Because she was an officer, and officers were forbidden to fraternize with enlisted men, they needed permission from General Dwight D. Eisenhower in order to get married in the Reims Cathedral in Reims, France, on Aug. 4, 1945," said Mrs. Canter.

After being discharged at war's end, Dr. Rafalko returned to his law studies on the G.I. Bill of Rights at the Boston University School of Law, from which he earned his law degree in 1947.

He embarked on a career teaching at the St. Louis University School of Law and in 1951 left to become an attorney-adviser for the Office of Price Stabilization in Washington. He then entered private practice.

Dr. Rafalko earned master's degrees in law in 1953 from the Georgetown University School of Law and in 1967 from New York University School of Law. He earned a doctorate in jurisprudence in 1965 from John Marshall University School of Law in Atlanta.

He was an assistant professor in the political science department of St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y., before joining the faculty in 1957 of the Duquesne University School of Law.

In 1959, he was appointed a full professor of law at Duquesne, and served in that capacity until 1969, when he was named associate dean.

Dr. Rafalko came to Baltimore in 1979 when he was appointed associate dean and professor of law at the University of Baltimore Law School.

During his career as a legal educator, Dr. Rafalko taught evidence, criminal law, civil procedure, constitutional law, equity and tax law, among other legal courses.

"In his career he told me he taught 38 courses, which surely makes him the Paul Bunyan of law professors. As an administrator he did the work now done by me and a staff of four," said University of Baltimore School of Law associate dean John A. Lynch Jr. "If you want to know why law school has gotten expensive, one reason is they don't make legal educators like Wally Rafalko anymore."

Byron Warnken, an attorney and associate professor at the University of Baltimore Law School, had been a student of Dr. Rafalko's.

He said that Dr. Rafalko came to the University of Baltimore at a time of transition and he "brought both institutional knowledge from the early law schools where he had worked and his legal education."

In the classroom, he recalled, Dr. Rafalko employed the Socratic method.

"He was always posing questions based on the reading assignments. And when you answered a question, he always had a follow-up question. He just kept peeling that onion deeper and deeper. He'd work the class and make them think."

Tom Condon, who was an offensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1974 to 1984 and retired from the New England Patriots the next year, studied law at the University of Baltimore during the off-season.

"Dean Rafalko was my first contact with the law school. It was contracts," said Mr. Condon, a lawyer and former president of the National Football League Players Association, who is now a sports agent in St. Louis.

"He was an extremely modest and unassuming man, but was tough in the classroom. I missed class one day and he called me aside," said Mr. Condon. "He told me that I had gotten a lot of things accomplished in my life, and then said, 'I don't want you missing classes.'"

Dr. Rafalko was presented the State of Maryland Governor's Recognition of Distinguished Service Award by Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

Dr. Rafalko was a communicant of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, 101 Church Lane, Cockeysville, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Also surviving are his wife of 65 years; a son, Dr. John W. Rafalko of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; seven other daughters, Nancy R. Trenti of Bethesda, Julia R. Vaughn of Stevenson, Joanne R. South and Patricia H. Rafalko, both of Timonium, Karen R. Wilson of Fernandina Beach, Fla., Mary Susan Reynolds of San Clemente, Calif., and Kathleen Marie DeBone of Morgantown, W. Va.; 20 grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren; and a great-great-grandson. Another son, Walter A. Rafalko Jr., died in 1998.


An earlier version of this obituary omitted a surviving daughter. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.