George Benedict Franz, a retired technical writer and an amateur photographer, died Monday of heart failure at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson. He was 86 and lived in Overlea.
A technical writer for the old Glenn L. Martin Co. aircraft manufacturer, he joined the National Security Agency in 1964 and retired in 1979.
His parents gave the Baltimore native his first Kodak Brownie camera when he was 10. He started taking pictures of his family, then photographed the Panama Canal when he served in the Army in the 1930s. He trained his son and grandson in photography.
In his lifetime, Mr. Franz took about 20,000 photographs and developed them in his basement darkroom, family members said.
He traveled the Maryland countryside and the streets and waterfront of Baltimore. He shot pictures of Cecil County barns and Talbot County oystermen and their boats, taking precise notes on the locations and names.
Described by family members as a showman by nature, he developed a travelogue slide presentation and became a volunteer speaker at senior citizen centers and nursing homes.
He entered photography contests and won honorable mention in the A. Aubrey Bodine Memorial Contest in the 1980s. A water scene was on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's 1981 annual report.
Raised in Gardenville, he attended St. Anthony's Parochial School and Polytechnic Institute.
Services were held yesterday.
Mr. Franz is survived by his wife of 58 years, the former Helen Balthus; two sons, Karl G. Franz of Baltimore and David G. Franz of Kingsville; three daughters, Linda M. Welsh of Newark, Del., and Mary Jo Franz-Roher and Doris Franz-Poling, both of Overlea; a sister, Ruth D. Hummel of Baltimore; 13 grandchildren; and two great-grandsons.