Louis Laurence DePazzo Sr., a former state delegate and Baltimore County councilman whose characteristic candor helped make and then break his political career, died Friday of cancer at the Stella Maris hospice-care facility in Timonium. He was 77.
His children and their spouses, along with his wife, the former Irene Bavis, gathered in the family's Dundalk hometown Sunday night, sharing a crab feast Mr. DePazzo had insisted upon and trading memories of a man they knew as a straight-talking practical joker, who once painted his wife's eyeglasses with clear nail polish while she dozed.
He adored Italian music, they said, along with gardening, fishing and every minute he spent with family.
"He had a reputation for being tough as nails, but when you got to know him, he was really a softie," said his second youngest daughter, Christina Norris, who lives in Edgemere. "Inside he was like a marshmallow."
Mr. DePazzo was born in Baltimore during the Great Depression, but his parents couldn't care for him, and he and his three siblings — a brother and two sisters — were divided among orphanages by gender, with the boys going one place and the girls another.
Mr. DePazzo went first to St. Vincent's and then to St. Leo's orphanage in Baltimore. An aunt took him in when he was about 9 and put him to work on her family's farm.
He attended Dundalk High School, according to the Archives of Maryland. He joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17, his family said, to give his life more structure.
He served four years in Korea, in part as a "forward observer" responsible for directing artillery fire, and earned a Bronze Star Combat V medal, his wife said, for rescuing a wounded Marine as bullets rained down around them.
Back at home, he followed his brother into bricklaying work and became friendly with Norman Stone, who would later become a state senator. He met his wife-to-be at an Italian club and the couple married in May 1954.
Over the next several years, Mr. DePazzo attended the University of Baltimore School of Law, along with Mr. Stone, as his young family grew, laying bricks during the day and going to school at night.
Mr. DePazzo brought his military training to family life, calling out "front and center" on Saturday mornings and assembling the crew for chores. The whole group washed the car as a team, from the parents on down to the two littlest girls, whose job was to dry. Then they'd head off for snoballs: Mom, Dad, a son and the three daughters.
"He loved his family dearly, and we could not have asked for a better father if we had ordered him ourselves. We were the world to him," said the youngest daughter, Lori Piechocki, who lives in Mohnton, Pa.
Mr. DePazzo was a Baltimore County assistant solicitor in the late 1960s, a county magistrate from 1969 to 1971 and a House of Delegates member from 1979 to 1994, before serving one term on the Baltimore County Council.
As a politician, Mr. DePazzo was known for his unpredictable comments and crowd-rousing histrionics, which earned him the nickname "Crazy Lou," according to a 1995 Sun article. He was derided for his shocking statements even as others praised him as a champion of the working man.
"He told people the way it was whether they liked it or not, and it got him in trouble sometimes," Mrs. Norris said.
His comments on AIDS patients, calling them a "privileged class" because funds were set aside for their treatment, shocked council members in the mid-1990's. And his opposition to a federal program that helped transfer some city public housing residents to the suburbs was construed as racist.
"Words can feel like bullets," Mr. DePazzo acknowledged in the Sun article, adding that he regretted some of his statements. He did not win re-election to the council in 1998.
Still, "he always considered himself one of the people," Norris said. "He's a very, very humble person."
Also surviving is son Louis DePazzo Jr. of Perry Hall and daughter Diana M. Pardo of Victorville, Calif.; as well as 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Bryan P. Sears, political editor for Patuxent Publishing Co., contributed to this article.