John Kronau, 1st chief of Md. Port Authority


John L. Kronau, a retired engineering and construction executive who was the first chairman of the Maryland Port Authority, died Tuesday of heart failure at Royal Swan Farm, his home on the Sassafras River near Still Pond on the Eastern Shore. He was 88.

Mr. Kronau was chairman of the MPA from 1958 until 1968.

His interest in port matters began in 1943 when he was appointed chairman of the Port Development Commission.

In 1951, he was named head of the Port of Baltimore Commission. He also served on the committee that called for the establishment of a statewide port authority, and the MPA came into being in 1956.

"John was one of the early members of a port body that was established to promote the port of Baltimore," said former Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, a Maryland Republican.

"He gave his heart to and devoted a great deal of time to port development.

"He was a road builder but recognized the economic value of the port to Baltimore and Maryland very early on, and that the port was composed of many entities," said Mrs. Bentley, a former federal maritime commissioner.

In 1958, during Mr. Kronau's tenure as chairman, the MPA began developing the 353-acre old Harbor Field airport into the Dundalk Marine Terminal, which opened in 1960.

He championed the deepening and widening of Baltimore's main shipping channels, and the application of the lift-on, lift-off technology that was beginning to revolutionize the shipping industry.

In the early 1960s, Mr. Kronau began spreading the message that the port had to change from being a railroad port, as it had been historically, to a steamship facility because future cargoes would move by truck, not freight car.

When he retired in 1968, The Sun said in an editorial: "His services will be missed. Surely no one has ever had more experience in or has more knowledge of the port of Baltimore than Mr. Kronau."

An asphalt technologist and material engineer, Mr. Kronau began his career during the 1920s as a chemist with the federal Bureau of Standards.

In 1938, he established Eastern Highways Corp., which specialized in building roads and airports. In 1950, he became president and treasurer of the Patapsco Engineering Co. and owner of Central Sales and Service Corp.

Mr. Kronau was elected president of Empire Construction Co. in 1969. The firm built bridges and piers, and was associated with Baltimore Contractors Inc. He retired from Empire in 1984.

"He was a doer who got things done," said Victor Frenkil, chairman and chief executive officer of BCI, and longtime friend and associate.

Mr. Kronau was interested in historic preservation and helped to bring the frigate Constellation to Baltimore in the 1950s, and worked on such restorations as the Belvedere Hotel and the Burnside Bridge at Antietam.

He was a member of many professional associations, including the Maryland Asphalt Association, the American Society of Asphalt Technologists and the Moles Society.

He was a founding member of the Center Club, and was a member of the South River Club, the Engineers Club and Ducks Unlimited.

Born and raised in Hamilton, he attended city schools and was a 1924 graduate of Polytechnic Institute. He attended the Maryland Institute and the Johns Hopkins University.

A former resident of Homeland, Mr. Kronau bought the 300-acre Royal Swan Farm in Kent County in 1940. He enjoyed duck hunting and entertaining at the farm. Among his guests were Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

"He stood out in a crowd, and was very easy and outgoing," said his grandson, John V. Quarstein of Newport News, Va.

"He was a good storyteller, who liked nothing more than to sit over a plate of Tom Cove oysters and talk about Maryland history, the Eastern Shore and the Civil War."

Services were to be held at 10 a.m. today at Shrewsbury Episcopal Church, Route 213, Kennedyville, where he was a longtime member.

He is survived by his wife of 68 years, the former Mildred Alma Emmart; a daughter, Mary Alma Quarstein of Hampton, Va.; two other grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

Memorial donations may be made to Shrewsbury Episcopal Church, P.O. Box 187, Kennedyville 21645; or Kent Hospice Foundation, 118 S. Lynchburg St., Chestertown 21620.

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