Nicholas Sr. and Grace M. D'Adamo, parents of councilman, E. Baltimore fixtures, die one day apart

Nicholas C. D'Adamo Sr., a retired Highlandtown merchant, and his wife, the former Grace Marie Wolfe, who were inseparable for 61 years, died within a day of each other at Franklin Woods Center in White Marsh.

Mr. D'Adamo, who died Tuesday of complications from dementia, was 86. His wife, who died early Wednesday morning, was 82.

"She had a bad cough, and at 6 a.m. in the morning she asked the staff for some cough medicine, and when they got back, she was dead," said the couple's son, Baltimore City Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr., who lives in Hamilton.

"Mom had been in failing health since the death of her daughter last year. She had lost lots of weight and was worried about my father," said the veteran 2nd District Democrat.

"I am saddened by the news of the passing of Grace and Nicholas D'Adamo Sr., the parents of my colleague, Nicholas D'Adamo Jr. My thoughts and prayers are with Councilman D'Adamo and his family," said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.

"As the owner of Shocket's Discount Store, Nick Sr. was one of the pillars in his community. He never forgot about his East Baltimore roots, or his connection with God and family," Ms. Rawlings-Blake said.

"It was an honor to have had an opportunity to meet and know him and Grace, and a privilege serving with their son since I joined the City Council in 1995," she said.

In a statement Wednesday, City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young described the elder D'Adamos as "gracious beyond words."

"I regularly teased Councilman D'Adamo in front of his parents by saying the voters had elected him by mistake. It was his father, Nicholas D'Adamo Sr., who they really wanted, I joked," said Mr. Young.

"The beauty about Mr. and Mrs. D'Adamo was that in addition to being anchors in their East Baltimore community, they were loving individuals who took time out to appreciate life's simple pleasures," he said.

For 20 years, until closing the business in 2002, Mr. D'Adamo was the owner and proprietor of Shocket's General Merchandising, where he had started working as a stock boy in the 1940s, and later rose to be manager and finally owner.

The store, in the 3900 block of Eastern Ave., was described in a 2002 Baltimore Sun article as an "ornaments-to-underwear emporium."

Mr. D'Adamo, the son of a concrete finisher and a homemaker who were Italian immigrants, was born in Baltimore and raised on Stiles Street in Little Italy. The family later moved to Montford Avenue near Patterson Park.

He was a 1942 graduate of Polytechnic Institute and served with the Army Air Forces in the Philippines during World War II.

"He began working for Mr. Shocket, who took him in as a stock boy when he was 14," said Mr. D'Adamo, who kept a small district office in a cubicle in the store.

After the war, the elder Mr. D'Adamo worked at the old Glenn L. Martin Co. in Middle River briefly, before becoming manager of Shocket's. When the owner died, he bought the business in 1982.

"My dad was called 'Mr. Nick,' 'Big Nick' or 'Mr. Shocket.' Most folks thought he was Mr. Shocket and didn't know he was Mr. D'Adamo," his son said.

"It was the first dollar store 40 years ago, before anyone knew what a dollar store was. Everything was like 99 cents or 59 cents, and all the old Italian, Greek and Polish ladies would come in and shop," Mr. D'Adamo recalled.

"He always gave from his heart. People from various charities and causes would call, and he'd give. All the churches came in, and he gave them what they wanted for free," his son said.

But times changed, and as the store's customers died off or moved to the suburbs, and with profits sagging, Mr. D'Adamo closed the business that had occupied him professionally for most of his life.

"I never thought it'd go down," the elder Mr. D'Adamo told The Baltimore Sun in a 2002 interview. "I gotta get out, sooner or later."

After closing the store, Mr. D'Adamo retired.

"Everybody in Baltimore went to Shocket's. We lived in Dundalk and later moved to Loch Raven, but we always came back to that strip on Eastern Avenue to shop," said Mark J. Adams, a Baltimore bail bondsman and an old family friend.

"Nick was the most gentlest and kindest man you'd ever want to meet. He was like Captain Kangaroo, he was so nice," said Mr. Adams.

Baltimore City Councilman Robert W. Curran was a customer and longtime friend.

"Nick was a very kind and sincere gentleman who was well-respected and a legend in Highlandtown," said Mr. Curran. "He was such a generous gentleman, and people are going to miss him."

The longtime Chesaco Avenue resident was a devout Roman Catholic and, according to his son, was a member of St. Leo's, Shrine of the Little Flower and St. Clement Mary Hofbauer Roman Catholic churches.

"He had a shore house at Miller's Island, and when he was there would go to St. Luke's in Edgemere," Mr. D'Adamo said. "When he had the store, he'd go to daily Mass at Our Lady of Pompei before opening for the day."

Mr. D'Adamo was an avid Baltimore Colts and Ravens fan.

"When the annual Holy Name Society baseball game fell on a Friday, Mr. D'Adamo gained local fame when he obtained a dispensation from Lawrence Cardinal Shehan allowing his fellow Catholics to eat hot dogs," said Mr. Adams.

"Until his illness, he attended every Ravens game. He missed Colts games that fell on Sunday during Christmas shopping season, but otherwise attended every home game during the team's existence in Baltimore," he said.

"I used to take him to Ravens games up until two years ago," his son said.

Grace Marie Wolfe was born in Baltimore and raised on Bradford Street. She attended city public schools until dropping out to help support her family.

"She worked at the Hochschild Kohn department store downtown in the wig department and later at Sinai Hospital," her son said.

It was almost love at first sight that brought the couple together at a dance.

"In those days, there were weekly dances at the Alcazar, Chanticleer nightclub and another place on Charles Street," said Ann D'Adamo, a sister-in-law who lives in White Marsh. "Nicholas loved to dance, and one night he met Grace. I guess this was in 1948, and they married the next year."

The couple lived in Belair-Edison until moving to Rosedale about 15 years ago.

"She worked as a cashier in the store every Saturday and during holidays between Christmas and Thanksgiving," Mr. D'Adamo recalled.

"They were a very loving couple and loved each other to death," Mr. D'Adamo said.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Monday for Mr. and Mrs. D'Adamo at the Shrine of the Little Flower, Brendan and Kentucky avenues. They will be buried side by side at Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery in Gardenville immediately after the service.

Mr. D'Adamo is survived by three brothers, Phil D'Adamo of East New Market, Wicomico County, Joseph D'Adamo of White Marsh and Lou D'Adamo of Rosedale; and two grandchildren.

Mrs. D'Adamo is survived by a sister, Dorothy Rose of Baltimore. The couple's daughter, Joan M. Hitt, an elementary school teacher, died last year.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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