John Martello Sr., 76, owned knife servicing business


John C. Martello Sr., second-generation owner of Martello Knife Service Inc., died of a heart attack Sunday at his Bel Air home. He was 76.

Mr. Martello was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of immigrant parents from Pinzolo, Italy. His father, who learned knife-sharpening in Italy, moved his family in 1929 to the 1300 block of N. Broadway, when he established Martello Brothers Knife Service in Baltimore.

The elder Martello outfitted a red truck with a grinding wheel and other necessary equipment and visited city markets to service the knives of merchants.

"My father was 10 when he left school and went to work sharpening knives with his father and uncles," said the business' third-generation owner, John C. Martello Jr. of Lutherville.

During World War II, Mr. Martello joined the Navy and served as an engine room fireman aboard the troop transport USS William F. Hayes.

After the war, he returned to Baltimore and rejoined the family business. In 1953, the Martellos abandoned the portable operation when they opened a shop in the 2000 block of Kirk Ave. Knives were picked up and returned by deliverymen.

Mr. Martello also expanded the business to include the sale and maintenance of kitchen equipment. It is now in the Sulphur Spring Industrial Park in Arbutus.

In 1978, Mr. Martello retired and lived in Florida for several years before returning to Bel Air.

"He couldn't stay away from the business. You just couldn't keep him away. He was good with customers and liked servicing our various routes," the son said.

Largely self-educated, Mr. Martello had an astute knowledge of geography and history, and enjoyed travel, family members said.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, Baltimore and Ware avenues in Towson.

In addition to his son, Mr. Martello is survived by his wife of 59 years, the former Mary Lombardi; another son, Matthew Martello of Parkton; a daughter, Karen Calamita of Aberdeen; nine grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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