Edward F. Potter, 97 fought in World War I


Edward F. Potter, who served on the Mexican border with the Maryland National Guard in 1916 and with the 29th Division in some of the heaviest fighting of World War I, died Tuesday of pneumonia at Fort Howard Veterans Hospital. The Lutherville resident was 97.

He lied about his age and joined the Maryland National Guard when he was 15 years old in 1911, and eventually was sent to the Mexican border when American troops, under the command of Gen. John J. Pershing, invaded Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa, the Mexican revolutionary.

During World War I, Mr. Potter served in the 115th Infantry Regiment, Company K, of the 29th Division. He participated in the battles at Dead Man's Hill at Verdun and in the Meuse Argonne, where he suffered a head wound.

After a stay at a hospital in France, he was transferred to a hospital at Fort McHenry then moved to one in Perryville. He was discharged with the rank of sergeant in 1920 at Camp Meade.

His decorations include the Croix de Guerre, Silver Star and the Purple Heart.

In 1993, he was awarded the World War I 75th commemorative McCormick Medal, which was struck by the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation and was given to surviving veterans of the conflict.

In the early 1920s, he studied violin at the Peabody Institute and was a member of the Louisville Symphony Orchestra until leaving in 1930 to become an investigator and undercover agent for the Pinkerton Detective Agency.

A member of the Army Reserve, he was called to active duty during World War II and, according to his daughter Virginia P. Soper of Lutherville, "had a fit when the Army wouldn't send him overseas."

He was discharged in 1945 with the rank of colonel and returned to Pinkerton. He retired in 1966, "only because they put him out," said Mrs. Soper.

During retirement, he was active in American Legion Post No. 183 in Parkville and in 1964 became the first director of the Balladeers, the post's singing group.

"He had a tremendous range with his voice," recalled Frank Workman, a member of the post and friend for over 30 years. "He could sing bass or be the first tenor and had a great deal of intensity in his voice. He taught a lot of people how to sing and enjoyed doing so."

Mr. Potter was also associated with the Towsonaires singing group and enjoyed singing in barbershop quartets. He was a member of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartest Singing in America.

"He was a character," said his daughter. "He loved crowds and parties and huge groups of people. Wherever he went, he knew somebody. It was amazing."

Mr. Potter, one of seven children, was born during the administration of President William McKinley on a farm on what is now Morgan State University. He interrupted his education to join the National Guard.

He married the former Miriam Foutz of Hamilton in 1923. She died in 1985.

A Mass of Christian burial was to be offered at 9:30 a.m. today at St. Dominic Roman Catholic Church, Harford Road and Gibbons Avenue, Baltimore, with interment in Woodlawn Cemetery.

Other survivors include three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to the Salvation Army, 2602 Huntingdon Ave., Baltimore 21211.

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