Charles Sussman, Baltimore County school administrator, dies

Charles Sussman, a retired Baltimore County public schools administrator who was a decorated World War II veteran, died of congestive heart failure Wednesday at Sinai Hospital. He was 85 and lived in Pikesville.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Bryant Avenue near Druid Hill Park, he worked as a cashier at the popular delicatessen Sussman and Lev, at 923 E. Baltimore St., which was operated by his father, Jacob.

While attending City College, where he graduated in 1942, Mr. Sussman befriended Russell Baker, who went on to become a Baltimore Sun reporter, New York Times columnist and author.

Mr. Baker said Monday, "I considered him to be a very good friend. We were classmates, together for four years in the same classroom. It was an intimate relationship."

Mr. Baker credited Mr. Sussman with urging and inspiring him to go to college. Their friendship is chronicled in Mr. Baker's memoirs, "Growing Up" and "The Good Times."

In "Growing Up," Mr. Baker described his close friend, whom he called "Suss."

"Sussman was a prodigious bookworm and lover of education. I admired him greatly for the wide range of his knowledge, which far exceeded mine. He understood the distinction between fascism and communism, subjects on which I was utterly ignorant.

"He was interested in politics and foreign policy, subjects that bored me. He listened to classical music, to which I was completely deaf. He planned to become a teacher and had the instinct for it. It bothered him that there were such great gaps in my education. Like my mother, Sussman wanted to improve me. He tried to awaken me to the beauties of music.

"'Start with Tchaikovsky,' he pleaded. 'Tchaikovsky is easy. Everybody likes Tchaikovsky. Then you'll discover the beauty of Beethoven and Mozart.'"

Mr. Baker also credited his friend with getting him to attend the Johns Hopkins University.

"'Apply for a scholarship,' he commanded," Mr. Baker wrote.

They both entered Hopkins and Mr. Sussman suggested they learn news writing at an introductory session of the campus newspaper, the News-Letter.

When called to military service during World War II, Mr. Sussman told Mr. Baker, "It's going to be a great educational experience."

Mr. Sussman was trained as a translator at the University of Pennsylvania, but as D-Day approached, he was assigned to the 95th Infantry Division. He landed at Omaha Beach several days after the Allied invasion began and fought in France, Belgium and Germany.

"He had never held a gun before and was put in a unit with men he said could 'shoot the whiskers off a cat,'" said his son, Rabbi Lance J. Sussman of Elkins Park, Pa. "He saw 144 days of continuous engagement."

Mr. Sussman, his son said, was a radio operator who attained the rank of sergeant. He was later awarded a Bronze Star and other decorations for stringing a long radio wire while under enemy fire. The radio transmissions helped establish the coordinates that assisted in saving his unit, which was under heavy German fire.

After fighting at Metz, France, he and his unit seized a Saar River bridge and fought at the town of Saarlautern.

"My father had nightmares of Saarlautern," his son said. "He finally went back there, retraced his steps, and the nightmares stopped."

Years later, Mr. Sussman wrote a private memoir of his time in Europe. He also took his medal, a photo of him receiving it and a letter from his father, and put them in safekeeping for decades.

"That medal is now my most prized possession," his son said.

After the war, Mr. Sussman returned to school and earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Hopkins.

He became a teacher and was assigned to Baltimore City Public School No. 99, North Avenue and Washington Street. He later taught math and social studies at Gwynns Falls Junior High School.

In 1959, he moved to the Baltimore County school system as a guidance counselor at Johnnycake Elementary School. Six years later, he became the supervisor of guidance and pupil personnel services for Baltimore County schools, a position he held until his retirement about 15 years ago.

He also taught graduate courses in education for many years at Hopkins and Loyola University Maryland. He taught English and prepared immigrants for their citizenship examinations through the city's adult education program.

Mr. Sussman remained a classical music and opera aficionado throughout his life and amassed an extensive collection of records. After he retired, he organized a Joy of Opera series at Temple Oheb Shalom. He set up a series of programs that featured musicologists and other experts.

He also organized a "Rabbis' Chapel Series" that brought scholarly speakers to lecture on subjects of Jewish interest.

Services were held Friday at Sol Levinson and Bros.

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 64 years, the former Freda Sacki; a daughter, Marcelle Sussman Fischler of Old Brookville, N.Y.; eight grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

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