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David I. Gilden, 87, singer, businessman and Mason


David I. Gilden, a former owner of two businesses who in retirement became known for area singing and stage performances, died of heart and kidney failure May 29 at Sinai Hospital. The Northwest Baltimore resident was 87.

A longtime Mason and member of St. John's Lodge, Mr. Gilden had been presented with a 60-year pin by lodge members in a formal ceremony at the hospital the day before he died.

A paperboy in his childhood, Mr. Gilden left school in the ninth grade to help support his parents and six siblings. While accompanying his step-grandson to GED classes, Mr. Gilden earned his high school equivalency. At 75, he passed all the tests at the External High School in Rosedale and donned a cap and gown to receive his certificate.

His first full-time job as a teenager was with the Howard Luggage Co.

"He was used to hard work," said his wife of 20 years, the former Pauline Gold. "He worked as newspaper boy from the time he was 9. He had his own corner and made a nickel a day."

Along with a sister and cousin, Mr. Gilden started Triangle Manufacturing Co. in 1946, producing plastic products. The partners sold the company about 20 years later. Mr. Gilden then purchased Dann's Shoes on Lexington Street, a retail business he eventually sold to a nephew.

Retirement gave Mr. Gilden the time to indulge his passion for singing, his wife said. Long a member of the choir at Beth El Congregation, he became social chairman for the Beth El Seniors and helped organize monthly entertainment programs for the congregation. He was well-known for his singing and dancing expertise, Mrs. Gilden said.

"He had no formal voice training, but his voice was melodic," Mrs. Gilden said. "Many people remember him singing even in childhood."

For the past several years, Mr. Gilden frequently played the lead in productions by the Prime Time Players, a troupe that performs an annual musical at the Jewish Community Center in Owings Mills. Mr. Gilden also sang with the Reisterstown Songbirds, who entertain for many community groups.

"In the hospital, whenever he was in pain, I would get him to sing, and it really helped him," Mrs. Gilden said. "He sang so beautifully that the nurses would applaud him. He could still really belt out a song."

The couple were members of Summit Country Club, where Mr. Gilden served for many years on the entertainment committee.

Services were held Thursday.

Survivors also include a son, Stephen G. Gilden of Baltimore; a daughter, Marcia E. Caplan of Boca Raton, Fla.; a stepson, Robert Levenson of Baltimore; 10 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. He outlived three former wives, including his second wife, the former Florence Frahm, the mother of his children.


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