Catonsville man's body found in sailboat rigging

An article in the Nov. 22, 1940 edition of The Herald Argus and Baltimore Countian announced the tragic death of a young man in an apparent sailing mishap.

Tangled in the rigging of his 14-foot sailboat, the body of G. Gardner Smith, III, 22-year-old Catonsville resident, was located late on Monday afternoon of this week near Sandy Point where the little vessel had gone aground. There was no trace of Gordon Baker, 24, of Baltimore, who had set out on a sailing trip with Smith early Sunday morning.


Climaxing a search of several hours by Coast Guard ships and planes from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, the discovery of the stranded boat was made by an Academy plane which guided a naval subchaser to the spot. Smith, who lived at Shadynook Court, Catonsville, was the son of Mrs. Mary E. Smith and late George G. Smith, formerly of Elkridge. Baker, an employee of the Glenn L. Martin Company, lives at Montpelier street.

The pair set sail from Atkinson Landing, Sillery Bay, on the Magothy river, at 7 a.m., Sunday, planning to make a trip to the Eastern Shore and return by night. When they failed to return by Monday morning, Richard M. Baker of the Baltimore Park Board, an uncle of young Baker, asked the Coast Guard and the Naval Academy to begin their search. Five Academy planes and three Coast Guard vessels took part in the hunt.


G. Donald Gieske, 37-year-old Catonsville pilot and sportsman, fell to his death from a glider he was testing on a farm near Ellicott City on Monday afternoon of this week. The fatal flight, Mr. Gieske's first in a motorless plane according to his friends, was made in a glider which he built at his garage on the Frederick road between Ellicott City and Catonsville.

William Debaugh, Sr., 56, and his son, William, Jr., 26, of Catonsville, both employed at Mr. Gieske's service station, were acting as his ground crew. Three times they had driven the truck towing the glider across the farm of Melvin Wessel without getting the machine more than a few feet off the ground. On their fourth attempt, they said, the glider soared about 150 feet into the air, then dropped about 50 feet.

According to other witnesses of the accident, the glider then began to "buck like a bronco," throwing its pilot into the air. The Debaughs said that their first inkling of the mishap came when they looked up and saw Mr. Gieske hurtling to the ground. They carried him to the office of Dr. Alpha N. Herbert, Howard County medical examiner, who pronounced him dead.

The glider, which landed bottom up in a nearby field, was practically undamaged except for a few broken struts. The safety belt also was found unhooked. The mishap occurred just after Mr. Gieske cast off the tow rope, a 1,600-foot cable attached to a drum on the truck.

Thomas L. Gates, inspector for the Civil Aeronautics Authority, inspected the wreckage of the glider. Witnesses of the accident are preparing written reports for him.


Bad luck caught up with Mr. and Mrs. Frank Goetz of Clarke boulevard when they motored in their new car to Hargrave Military Academy, Chatham, Va., to visit their son, Billy, who is a student there. After Mr. Goetz had parked the car, it started in some unknown manner, coasted down a hill, crashed into a tree and was wrecked.

50 Years Ago

An article in the Nov. 24, 1965 edition of the Herald Argus and Baltimore Countian recognized a local businessmen who would be flying over Vietnam with gifts for the troops.

Donald Swirnow, an insurance agent in the Catonsville area who resides at Russell Court Apt's. in Randallstown, is being given a leave of absence from Dec. 4 to 15 for the purpose of flying packages to Vietnam with the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.

The packages have been provided by organizations and clubs which are showing their support of soldiers in military action in Vietnam.


Mr. Swirnow was chosen for the mission because he had served in the Air Force for eight years, and is an experienced navigator in the Vietnam area. He was awarded an air medal for service there in January and February, 1963. He joined the Air National Guard in the summer of 1965.


"The Bondsmen" who played at the local golf club last Friday, Nov. 12 to an enthusiastic crowd of 300 teenagers of the community, are local high school students who were organized as a band seven months ago. Since then, they have played at numerous church affairs for youth under the management of Michael Larkin of Arbutus, a senior at Cardinal Gibbons High School

Chip Mezger of Rosewood avenue, Catonsville, is a vocalist who also plays the guitar; Bob Wood, a junior at Catonsville Senior High School, handles the bass guitar; Don D'Alfonzo, of S. Rolling road, plays the lead guitar as well as sings and Dave Meacham of Hilton avenue, Catonsville, is the drummer. Mezger, D'Alfonzo and Meacham are seniors at McDonogh School.


Try outs for Catonsville Little Theatre's next production, Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians," will be held on November 29 and 30 in the Catonsville Public Library at 7:30 p.m.

Rehearsals will not start until after the first of the year to avoid conflicting with the holiday month of December. The play, to be given at the Catonsville Junior High School on Feb. 18 and 19, calls for a cast of 3 women and 8 men, varying in age from 20 to 60.

Material from archives courtesy of the Catonsville Historical Society.