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Walter J. Beal Sr., engineer who worked on early space program, dies

Walter J. Beal Sr., a former Martin Marietta engineer who had worked on the nation’s early space program and later for the Navy, died Tuesday at Brightview Mays Chapel Ridge in Timonium from complications of a fall. The former longtime Jarrettsville resident was 97.

Walter John Beal Sr., who was born in Baltimore and raised there, was the son of George Beal, a tailor, and his wife, Anna Somulawisautie Beal, a coat maker.

Mr. Beal was a 1939 graduate of City College and later earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He served as a corporal in the Army Air Force and was training to be a pilot when World War II ended.

He went to work at the old Glenn L. Martin Co. in Middle River — which later became Martin Marietta — and was heavily involved in the Project Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs.

In the late 1960s, he left Martin Marietta and joined the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in Alexandria, Va. He retired in 1997.

“During his life he demonstrated an exceptional work ethic, focusing on every detail of a project to get it right the first time,” wrote his daughter, Millicent Beal Morris, of York, Pa., in a biographical profile of her father. “That trait, perhaps more than any other, defined his approach to life and its challenges.”

She said that her father “excelled” at home improvement projects, and that he had taught himself carpentry, masonry and auto repair, and had even, with a son, built a Volkswagen engine on the family kitchen table.

Mr. Beal had been a longtime fan of the Baltimore Colts and Orioles and enjoyed watching tennis. He also was an avid gardener and was known for his tomatoes.

He enjoyed spending time at a second home in Ocean City, volunteering at the annual chicken dinners at St. Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church in Pylesville, where he was a communicant, and family camping trips.

His wife of 66 years, the former Millicent Gibson, died in 2015.

Services were Monday at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Beal is survived by two sons, Walter John Beal Jr. of Columbia, S.C., and Timothy Lawrence Beal of Finksburg; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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