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John William Marley, 77, hatter, served as a counselor to the blind

John William Marley, a retired hatter who had a second career as a counselor to the blind, died Aug. 23 of an esophageal hemorrhage at Northwest Hospital Center. The Towson resident was 77.

A Baltimore native raised on Litchfield Avenue in Park Heights, Mr. Marley was born with less than 10 percent of normal vision. Family members said that he was turned away from Baltimore public schools because of his vision. He then enrolled at St. Ambrose Parochial School, where nuns helped him to learn to read and study mathematics.

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He also completed three years at Mount St. Joseph's High School in Irvington.

In 1944, he began a 19-year career at the city's largest men's hat maker, the old M.S. Levy Co. in the 400 block of W. Lombard St. Standing all the workday at a heated press, he fed sheets of wool felt onto a mechanical stamping device that shaped the fabric into a hat. He was paid by the piece.

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"In the summer, when they were making the winter hats, it could reach 110 degrees," said his daughter, Patricia Marley Connolly of Reading, Mass. "He worked around all that particulate matter in the wool and dye, and he developed a condition known as textile lung."

She said her father also made straw hats in the winter for spring and summer wear, adding that in this job he breathed straw fibers and lacquers used to seal the hats.

He held the job until 1963, when the Baltimore plant closed because men were largely giving up the practice of wearing dress hats.

Mr. Marley then became associated with what was then the Maryland Workshop for the Blind. He was trained to run a concession snack stand operated by what became Blind Industries and Services of Maryland.

He worked initially in a bookbinding plant, then was sent to the American Totalizator Co. plant in Towson in 1965, where he was manager of a canteen. He prepared soups and sandwiches for the work force. He also moved to a home opposite this plant so he could walk to work at 5 a.m.

After six years, he became a counselor to Maryland's blind community and to managers of other concession stands and canteens. He later became a field supervisor for about 100 sites in hospitals, government buildings and businesses. He was offering tips and advice until his death.

"He brought people out and made them consider things they hadn't thought about. He helped them develop their confidence," said Patricia A. Maurer, director of community relations for the National Federation of the Blind in South Baltimore. "He was a role model for the community throughout the state. He was well-known and well-liked by blind people."

Mr. Marley was an avid football fan who followed his favorite team, University of Notre Dame, on the radio. He also played cards.

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Services were held Wednesday in Timonium.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 53 years, the former Mary Anna Leister, and two grandchildren.


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