Barry R. Malpass, 76, furniture refinisher, Scout leader, veteran


Barry R. Malpass, a furniture refinisher and war veteran who touched the lives of countless children as a Boy Scout leader for more than 40 years, died of liver cancer Saturday at his Frederick Road home near Catonsville. He was 76.

He was born in the city's Reservoir Hill neighborhood. After completing sixth grade, he and his identical twin brother, Billy, attended vocational school until they were 16 - when both enlisted in the merchant marine and traveled around the world.

Returning to Baltimore, he married his childhood sweetheart, JoAnn, on Father's Day in 1950, and began working as a furniture refinisher in his father's business, M.D. Malpass & Sons on Reisterstown Road.

Mr. Malpass was drafted into the Marines in 1952, and sent to Korea, where he earned two Purple Hearts.

Then, for decades, he and his brother worked in the family business until it was dissolved. He worked for a variety of furniture stores in the area until his retirement in 1982.

A former Boy Scout, Mr. Malpass held many positions in the Baltimore Area Council of Boy Scouts of America, including Scoutmaster of Troop 700 for disabled children at the Rolling Road School in Catonsville. With his guidance, three in the troop became Eagle Scouts.

He began working with Troop 700 in 1974, and tried hard to treat the boys the way Scouts would be treated in other troops - although he had had no previous experience working with disabled children.

"He was a natural," said Bob Dunker, board member and parent of a Scout in Troop 700. "He just related so well to them."

Under Mr. Malpass' tutelage, the Scouts performed needed chores and participated in activities with other troops.

It wasn't important to him what was "wrong" with the children, said his wife. "They were kids and he loved them," Mrs. Malpass said. "They didn't have to be classified as multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy or anything."

For his years of service, Mr. Malpass was given the Silver Beaver award in 1980 - the highest Scouting honor given to volunteers.

Family and friends described him as generous, with a gruff outward nature.

"He was very opinionated," said his son, Barry Douglas Malpass of Mardela Springs. "He would give you the shirt off his back, but you would have to hear him complain all day how cold he was."

Mr. Malpass also enjoyed history and traveling. His son recalled many an occasion sitting in the car in front of a historical monument at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m., waiting for it to open for the day. "Sleep when you're home," his father would say. "We're on vacation."

Since 1988, he had volunteered Wednesdays and Saturdays on the crew of the restored World War II Liberty ship SS John W. Brown, docked at Pier 1 in Canton.

Mr. Malpass was an avid collector of many things, including bronze grave markers, antique American clocks and Boy Scout memorabilia.

He spent many nights sewing merit badges and patches to big blankets for display at Boy Scout events. People would tell him that sewing them would reduce their value, but to him the real value was showing them to other Scouts, JoAnn Malpass said.

When he received a diagnosis of liver cancer in May, he began dismantling his collection, sending some of it to several Boy Scout museums.

Mr. Malpass' other love was swing dancing. He will be buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in his leather-soled dancing shoes after services at 11 a.m. today at Sterling-Ashton-Schwab Funeral Home, 736 Edmondson Ave., Catonsville.

In addition to his wife, son and twin brother, William D. Malpass of Catonsville, Mr. Malpass is survived by a daughter, Linda Alice Laun of Ellicott City; a sister, Freda M. Grim of Baltimore; and six grandchildren.

The family suggested memorial donations to Project Liberty Ship Pier Fund, P.O. Box 25846, Highlandtown Station, Baltimore 21224, or the Boy Scouts of America, Baltimore Area Council, 701 Wyman Park Drive, Baltimore 21211-2805.

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