Frederick Leist Jr., 76, Navy officer, history teacher at St. Paul's School


Frederick Leist Jr., a retired St. Paul's School for Boys faculty member and Navy lieutenant commander, died of complications from a stroke Tuesday at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center & Hospital. The Roland Park resident was 76.

Mr. Leist taught history at the Brooklandville school for 20 years and often infused his lectures with personal observations of world affairs.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Stoneleigh, he was long fascinated by history. As a boy, he frequently visited the Confederate Soldiers Home in Pikesville and listened to aged Civil War veterans tell their stories. One day in the early 1930s, he heard fire engines along nearby York Road and ran to the scene. Author F. Scott Fitzgerald's rented home, La Paix, which the writer shared with his wife, Zelda, was partially burned in the fire.

After graduating from Towson High School, Mr. Leist attended Princeton University. There, in 1943, he joined the Navy's V-12 program. His unit was transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a degree in electrical engineering. He also studied at the University of London. He earned a master's degree in liberal arts from the Johns Hopkins University in 1965.

During World War II, he flew a spotter plane used to detect enemy movements in the Pacific. His aircraft took off by being catapulted from the deck of the cruiser Montpelier. It returned to the ship by landing in the water and being picked up by a hook.

At age 19, he was assigned to bring a small squadron of destroyer escorts to their home port for decommissioning. Family members said that although he was saluted as the skipper - or captain - he was not old enough to drink alcohol.

Mr. Leist remained in the Navy after the war ended and participated in the evacuation of Shanghai in 1949. During the Korean War, he served at the Inchon landing and at the evacuation of Marines at Hung Nam. He later taught missile electronics at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.

He also served as executive officer on the John R. Pierce, a destroyer assigned to the Mediterranean, during periods of unrest in Lebanon. He retired from the Navy in 1963 with the rank of lieutenant commander.

Recalled as a good conversationalist and raconteur, he started a second career in 1965 as a high school history teacher at St. Paul's School for Boys. He remained with the school until he retired in 1985.

"He was extremely well read in his field," said Tom Longstreth, a St. Paul's faculty member. "He was well spoken, interesting. His students found he had a great wealth of experience."

"He could speak of historical Maryland figures in such a way you expected them to walk in the room," said his son, Frederick Arnold Leist of San Rafael, Calif. "He brought history to life in a vivid way. These were real people with real emotions."

Mr. Leist's students dedicated the 1974 yearbook, Crusader, to him.

A member of the St. George's Society, he belonged to St. David's Episcopal Church and to the church's men's luncheon club. He also enjoyed long driving trips.

His wife of 45 years, the former Jane Shipley, died in 1997.

A memorial will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, 3900 Roland Ave.

He also is survived by another son, Edward Gettier Shipley Leist of Bel Air, and four grandchildren. A third son, John Richardson Leist, died in 1996.

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