Thomas Phillips McGrath Sr., a retired State Farm Insurance agent and Army veteran, died Wednesday at Brightview Towson Senior Living from respiratory failure. The resident of the Phoenix area of Baltimore County was 87.
He was born in Baltimore and raised in Govans and Stoneleigh, the son of Thomas A. McGrath, a Western Electric Co. executive, and Marie Hrdlicka McGrath, a homemaker.
He was a 1949 graduate of then-Loyola High School, and attended what is now Loyola University Maryland before leaving to take a job with the old Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co.
Mr. McGrath left the telephone company after a co-worker told him that while he was a good worker and colleague, he lacked mechanical skills and should pursue another line of work, said a daughter, Katie Dott of Towson.
“He reflected that it was the best advice he had received in over 50 years,” she said.
In 1950, Mr. McGrath joined the Army Reserve and later the Maryland National Guard where he attained the rank of sergeant.
“He was made cook in his unit, even though his cooking acumen was limited to knowing that you had to soak beans before cooking,” his daughter said.
Mr. McGrath became a State Farm Insurance agent and established an office in the Armco Building at York Road and Stevenson Lane in Stoneleigh.
His daughter said Mr. McGrath was “known to fly out of the office to meet a policy holder at the scene of their automobile accident,” and installed multiple telephone lines in his Wiltondale and Stoneleigh homes to handle clients’ calls when they had an insurance emergency.
He became a chartered life underwriter and a certified financial planner. He also taught continuing education credits in insurance, with a particular focus on risk management, at Loyola University Maryland, Towson University and Johns Hopkins University.
At Loyola University, he was made a member of the John Early Society, a leadership and donor organization, in recognition of his financial support of the university.
He retired in 1997.
A Phoenix resident since 1971, Mr. McGrath was a scoutmaster with the Boy Scout of America, and was active in the Optimist Club. He also coached various youth sports and enjoyed travel.
He was a member of the Knights of Columbus and a communicant and lector at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Hydes.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church, York and Overbrook roads, Rodgers Forge.
In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife of 65 years, the former Carolee Franklin; two sons, Thomas P. McGrath Jr. of Lutherville and Christopher McGrath of Tysons Corner, Va.; another daughter, Charleen McGrath of St. Petersburg, Fla.; two brothers, Tony McGrath of Perry Hall and Jim McGrath of Timonium; two sisters, Marilyn McGrath and Jody Celmer, both of Towson; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.