Bequest for a man's best friend

The Baltimore Sun

Only a few Federal Hill neighbors knew Kenneth Munzert's idiosyncrasies. He owned a silver-blue Bentley but preferred to walk in Baltimore. He sailed on the Queen Mary 2 but collected soap from hotels he visited. He lived in a $1 million house but wrote numerous letters on old fliers.

Munzert, who died last year at age 88, had no close family and left his principal asset, his home overlooking the harbor, to an animal charity pledged to protect his German shepherd, Beauregard, a former stray with whom he sometimes slept on the floor.

"He was an eccentric person, and he did what he considered was right," said the Rev. Holger Roggelin, the pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, where Munzert attended services twice weekly. "He also loved to pick a fight on any issue, politics, religion, anything. I think he actually enjoyed doing this. It was hard to gain Mr. Munzert's confidence. He had a dry sense of humor. You never knew what he was going to say next."

Although Munzert had worried about Beauregard's care if his beloved dog outlived him, the animal died shortly before Munzert, who then directed that his 19th-century home be sold to protect other dogs whose owners had died. The house at 405 Warren Ave., whose facade appears in the Al Pacino film And Justice for All, will go to auction March 31 to benefit the SPCA of Richmond, Va.

"I had not made a practice of accepting responsibility for people's pets after their death, but, after I spoke with Ken, I agreed to do so for Beau," said Robin R. Starr, head of the Richmond SPCA. "When I heard Ken talk about his love for his dog and his fear that Beau would not be cared for were he to die first, I realized that Ken was just the sort of pet owner that we wished everyone would be."

This year, Maryland legislators are wrestling with a proposed mechanism for owners to leave a reasonable bequest to their pets. State law is hazy on the issue.

Munzert was raised on Baltimore Street on the west side. His father, a druggist, sent him to Staunton Military Academy after he and his wife separated. He studied diligently and went on to earn an engineering degree at Harvard University. After graduation, Munzert joined the Harvard Club and regularly rented one of its rooms.

Munzert assiduously read the Wall Street Journal until his death. He also studied German at the Zion church school in downtown Baltimore. Friends described him as a "Southern gentleman."

Over the years, Munzert held jobs with the Regional Planning Council, the city, the old John C. Legg & Co. and Johns Hopkins Hospital, his attorney said.

According to interviews with friends, Munzert was a proud and private man. He regularly sailed to Europe, and left Beauregard - who could be obstreperous - in the care of others. He also made visits to Toronto, where he had a dentist, and to Richmond.

According to a will filed in Baltimore last month, Munzert left an estimated $990,228 - three-quarters of which is directed to animal protection groups in the U.S. and elsewhere. That amount doesn't include his Warren Avenue house, which he told friends he bought for $25,000 about 40 years ago.

Munzert had owned properties in several Baltimore historic districts - Dickeyville, Seton Hill and Federal Hill, where he once owned several Warren Avenue houses.

Munzert's home, one of a pair of houses built by South Charles Street department store owner Henry Wessel, is one of the largest residences in South Baltimore at nearly 4,400 square feet.

"That house is a treasure waiting to be touched," said a neighbor, Mary Della, who lives in the other home constructed by the department store owner. "He loved it. And I can see him fixing the roof, attired in a summer seersucker suit."

Restaurateur Wayne Brokke rented an apartment from Munzert in the 1970s.

"As sloppy as he was in that house, he was careful with his finances," Brokke said. "He also loved making apartments nice for his tenants."

Starr, the SPCA director to whom Munzert left his personal effects, walked through the house recently and found Beauregard's ceramic food bowl, inscribed: "To Man's Best Friend - His Dog."

It now rests on her desk.

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