John L. Carroll, a retired federal inspector and intelligence officer who sang at family gatherings and club variety shows, died of complications from a stroke Friday at his Catonsville home. He was 87.
Born in Thompsonville, Conn., he made $18 a week as a laborer in the town's textile mill for several years for tuition money and earned a degree in biochemistry at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.
He moved to Baltimore in 1940 and was a chemist for Crown Cork & Seal in Highlandtown before enlisting in the Coast Guard during World War II. Commissioned as an ensign after graduating from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., he served as a cryptographer in Puerto Rico and navigator on a Coast Guard troop transport ship in the Pacific.
Mr. Carroll contributed recollections of his war experiences to the Library of Congress Veterans' History Project. He witnessed a kamikaze attack on a ship and was preparing for an invasion of Japan when atomic bombs were dropped, ending the war.
He was the radio operator on his transport ship the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt died. He deciphered the coded message and reported the death to shipmates.
Mr. Carroll then attended Yale University's Graduate School of Forestry and in 1949 returned to the Baltimore area. He lived for more than 50 years on Rockwell Avenue in Catonsville.
He became a food safety inspector for the Food and Drug Administration and traveled throughout the Middle Atlantic. He also briefly conducted investigations for the Civil Service.
During much of the Cold War, he was chief foreign intelligence officer for the U.S. Army Chemical Corps at Edgewood Arsenal, which became a part of Aberdeen Proving Ground in 1971.
"He liked his work in chemistry and, while he could not talk much about it, was involved in research for a cure for nerve gas agents," said his grandson, Rob Ludwig, a junior at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Mr. Carroll later was the Edgewood facility's equal employment opportunity officer. He retired about 25 years ago.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Mr. Carroll coached St. Mark Parish Little League and Pony League baseball and youth football teams in Catonsville. As his children entered high school, he became active in the St. Mark Catholic Youth Organization and Cardinal Gibbons High School fathers' club. A tenor, he performed in fathers' club variety shows.
In recent years, he enjoyed singing at family gatherings with his son, Lawrence J. Carroll of Washington, and grandson. The family trio sang World War I and traditional Irish songs.
Mr. Carroll was the son of Irish immigrants and had an interest in his heritage. He was an avid reader of Irish history and literature. He also visited Ireland and his family's homes in Tipperary and Clare.
Family members said he was a skilled storyteller and had a quick wit. He often talked about the old days at dinnertime.
"He used to recall his adventures growing up in Connecticut," said his daughter, Margaret K. Carroll of Columbia. "He was a student of human nature and saw the lighter side of things."
Mr. Carroll and his wife, the former May R. Norris., were married for 61 years. She survives him.
Plans for a memorial service were incomplete.
His wife, two children and grandson are his only survivors.