Charles Leo "Lee" Chrest, a certified public accountant and founder of a Lutherville accounting firm, died Sunday of a massive heart attack at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The Towson resident was 80.
Mr. Chrest - the son and grandson of accountants - was born in Baltimore and raised in Catonsville. After graduating from Calvert Hall College High School in 1945, he enlisted in the Navy.
Mr. Chrest, a communications technician, served at naval bases in the United States and Guam and was discharged in 1948. He was a 1953 graduate of the University of Maryland and became a certified public accountant in 1955.
He established Chrest & Associates in 1955 in Rosedale and was joined in his work by his wife, the former Lillian Ruzylo, who handled secretarial duties. He later opened offices in Towson and Ocean City, which he operated from 1980 until 2000.
Since 1985, the business, now owned by two sons, has had its headquarters in Lutherville, and Mr. Chrest, even though he was semiretired, continued to go to work.
"He was still coming in half-days five days a week," said a daughter, Susan M. Chrest of Joppatowne, a CPA who owns and operates an accounting firm.
"He was a good businessman, but above all else it was the way he treated his clients and employees that was the most important thing," Ms. Chrest said.
For many years, Mr. Chrest made house calls to his clients to help them with their taxes.
"His clients quickly became his friends," Ms. Chrest said.
"He had top-notch morals and ethics, and his clients always came first. It wasn't about making money," said Brian F. Chrest, a son who lives in Timonium and is a CPA and co-owner of the business with his brother Randall C. Chrest of Rosedale.
"He loved the work and dealing with people, and his work ethic certainly rubbed off on me," said Randall Chrest, an accountant.
After turning the business over to his children, the elder Mr. Chrest told the Baltimore Business Journal in a 1995 profile, "We taught them everything they know, and now we're working for them."
Mr. Chrest played a pivotal role in establishing the accounting curriculum at what is now the Community College of Baltimore County at Essex in the 1970s.
He enjoyed collecting coins and stamps, and was an avid model railroad fan who liked working on his basement layout.
His wife of 53 years died in 2006.
He was a communicant of the Roman Catholic Church of the Nativity, 20 E. Ridgely Road in Timonium, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Also surviving are another son, Kenneth L. Chrest of Towson; another daughter, Renee R. Chrest of Timonium; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.