John E. McCann, city lawyer who helped plan annual St. Patrick's Day Parade

John E. McCann, a retired Baltimore estates and trusts attorney who reveled in his Irish heritage, died Friday of a heart attack at his Lutherville home. He was 83.

"John was the quintessential Irishman," said his former law partner, Donald F. Burke, who now is associated with the law firm of Semmes Bowen & Semmes.

"He marched in the St. Patrick's Day Parade for years, and he was very proud of that as he was his Irish heritage. That was a very important part of who John was," Mr. Burke said.

One of seven children, John Edward McCann was born in Baltimore. the son of James Edward McCann, a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad benefits director, and Catherine Patricia McCann, a homemaker.

Raised in Waverly, he was a 1952 graduate of Calvert Hall College High School, and four years later, earned a bachelor's degree in accounting from what is now Loyola University Maryland, where he was a member of the varsity wrestling and cross-country teams.

After graduating from Loyola, he served in the Army from 1956 to 1958, and was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, as a clerk-typist.

"He used to say he had been a member of the 'Remington Raiders,' because they used Remington typewriters," said a son, John E. McCann Jr., a resident of the Orchards in North Baltimore.

While working as an accountant at Domino Sugar in South Baltimore, Mr. McCann studied at night at the University of Baltimore School of Law, where he earned his law degree in 1963.

After passing the Maryland bar that year, he began practicing at the firm of Cable McDaniel which later became Cable McDaniel Bowie & Bond, where he specialized in estates and trusts.

"John was an estates administrator, and he administered estates worth millions for scores of wealthy people, not only in Baltimore but throughout the Middle Atlantic states," Mr. Burke said.

"It was complicated work that he did. And it just goes to show you why he had such a great reputation," he said. "He was very intelligent and patient because some of these estates can take years to resolve. John really was the best."

Mr. McCann remained with CMB&B after the firm merged in the 1990s with McGuire Woods Battle & Booth. He retired in 2001.

In addition to his law practice, Mr. McCann served during the 1980s as president of the local branch of Big Brothers Big Sisters. He also was on the board of Maryvale Preparatory School for many years, as well as the homeowners association in his Lutherville neighborhood.

Mr. McCann was gregarious and known for having a ready laugh, a quick wit and a big smile that crossed his face when something amused him, family and friends said.

He was also a longtime member of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, where he assisted for years in the planning for Baltimore's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Mr. McCann was affectionately known as "Suds" by friends, family and legal colleagues.

"We used to play in the Lawyers Softball League when we were young. We'd play against guys like Dutch Ruppersberger," now a congressman, recalled Mr. Burke. "And we always had lots of beer on the sidelines, so he came by the name 'Suds' honestly."

Richard A. Macksey, a noted Baltimore bibliophile and professor of the humanities at the Johns Hopkins University, is a longtime family friend.

Mr. McCann's daughter, Brigit Ann Macksey, of Ruxton, is married to his son Alan Macksey.

In an email, he wrote that it would take the talents of a Charles Dickens to capture the "flavor" of Mr. McCann's "saving humor and wide-ranging curiosity."

"And this concern and humor in all my friendly if noisy arguments with him over the years — about politics, history and sports — would bring me back to the realization that the possibilities of education and a loving family were what informed his curiosity and often curious convictions," Dr. Macksey wrote.

"He was larger than life," his son said.

Mr. McCann enjoyed following the Orioles and Ravens, and was a diehard Baltimore Colts fan who was in attendance on Dec. 28, 1958, at Yankee Stadium in New York City, for the sudden-death Colts-Giants championship game which has gone down in the pantheon of football history as the "greatest game ever played."

Mr. McCann's other pastimes were fishing, playing softball, and working on and operating a large HO-gauge railroad that filled the basement of his home.

He modeled his railroad after the B&O and was able to operate 10 trains at once, his son said.

"He had a Bromo Seltzer tower and a station that he modeled after Camden Station on his layout," his son said.

Mr. McCann was a communicant of Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church in Towson.

His wife of 44 years, the former Margarite Alberta "Bertie" Kiel, died in 2007.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5200 N. Charles St.

In addtion to his son and daughter, Mr. McCann is survived by another son, Dr. William A. McCann of Asheville, N.C.; two brothers, J. Vincent McCann of Wilmington, N.C., and Francis Anthony McCann of New Orleans; two sisters, Mary Catherine Shock of Roland Park and Claire A. Sternberg of LaBarge, Wyo.; and six grandchildren.

frasmussen@baltsun.com

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