Thaddeus Louis Bialek, whose affection for his native Baltimore led to a career in the city's urban renewal program, died of brain cancer Tuesday at his Bolton Hill home. He was 90.
The youngest of seven children, Mr. Bialek had a difficult childhood. His mother died when he was 6 years old, and he later dropped out of school. But a job as a page at the Enoch Pratt Free Library helped turn things around, said his daughter, Janka Bialek of Guilderland, N.Y. At the library, she said, he discovered a love of learning and mentors who "changed the course of his life."
Mr. Bialek went on to graduate from Alliance College in Cambridge Springs, Pa., a junior college for young men of Polish descent, and from the Johns Hopkins University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1940. After graduating, he spent five years in Army, most of it as a sergeant in the Pacific during World War II, said his wife, Jane Bialek.
He left the United States again after the war to study in Krakow, Poland, and Paris. In a 1952 column in The Evening Sun, he described his life as a student on the G.I. Bill in Paris and how he was managing to live on just $75 a month. He told of his equally thrifty landlady, who scolded him for leaving the lights on too long at night to study: "In my room, suddenly, the light is being flicked on and off. It is my landlady signaling me by her infernal device for the thousandth time these two years; for the thousandth time I signal back to her to let her know I have not fallen asleep with my light on."
In Baltimore, Mr. Bialek worked for the Welfare Department and later for the Redevelopment Commission, mostly as a land acquisition officer. With his wife, he raised their family in Bolton Hill, where he lived for the last 45 years. "He liked everything about the city," she said.
No services are planned.
In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by a second daughter, Kasia Bialek of Baltimore; a son, Peter Bialek of Cambridge, Mass., and two granddaughters.