Andrew Frank "Andy" Conn, a retired engineer who was a Johns Hopkins University senior lecturer, died of cancer Nov. 6 at St. Joseph Medical Center. The Village of Cross Keys resident was 80.
Born in Washington and raised in Silver Spring, he was the son of Milton Conn, an attorney. and Leona Honick Conn, a homemaker.
An Eagle Scout, he was a 1953 graduate of Montgomery Blair High School. He received a bachelor's degree in engineering at the Johns Hopkins University, where he also earned a master's degree and a doctorate. He was a member of the Phi Sigma Delta fraternity.
"My father grew up in a typical Jewish, Roosevelt-supporting home," said his son, David Conn of Baltimore. "From his parents, he learned the value of an education. He also learned the value of a dollar. ... Never in his entire life could he be accused of spending one frivolously."
Family members said Dr. Conn was an accomplished jazz drummer and performed at fraternity parties and community musical shows. At a friend's social event, he met his future wife, the former Elinor Schwartzman. She died in 1996 after they had been married 38 years.
"We were all good friends and I had been in their wedding," said his wife, Barbara Taylor, whom he married in 1997. "I was able to help him express his grief. ... Andy had a reputation of being the smartest guy. After we married, he was highly solicitous of me."
In the 1960s, Dr. Conn was a Sweetheart Cup engineer. He then joined a Howard County research and development firm, Hydronautics Inc.
He became a specialist in an innovative type of water jet technology and later purchased the patents for what he devised. He worked in high pressure cavitation jets used to clean barnacles off ships or asbestos from old pipes. The technology is also used to cut through sidewalk and roadway concrete.
In 1990, he was named a senior lecturer at Hopkins, where he ran a class for undergraduate engineering seniors.
"For him, this wasn't just community or scientific work, it was deeply creative work. He believed in harnessing his knowledge in the service of creating solutions to help people," said his son. "His best years were spent helping Hopkins engineering students design solutions for real-world problems."
These problems included making a child-proof window grate used in apartment houses. The grate was designed to keep a child from falling out a window while allowing fire or safety personnel to gain entry during an emergency.
"My dad had a rare combination of great intellectual ability, deep compassion for those in need, and a strong set of practical skills to get things done. He applied all of those traits to the things he cared about most: from planning family reunions to his Jewish charitable work to developing technologies to help people with disabilities," said another son, Lawrence Conn of Owings Mills.
Dr. Conn taped a quotation from Albert Einstein above his desk: "Scientists investigate that which already is. Engineers create that which has never been."
He was a lifelong Democrat and filled his basement with political materials when he worked in 1970 and 1974 to campaign for House of Delegates member Howard J. Needle.
He was an Associated Jewish Charities volunteer and assisted in the creation of its Super Phone Day. He was among the co-founders of the Maryland-Israel Development Center. He received the Associated's Harry Greenstein Young Leadership Award.
Family members said Dr. Conn devoted himself to Volunteers for Medical Engineering, now called V-LINC, developing inventions that help people with disabilities live more dignified lives.
In 2014 he was named V-LINC's volunteer of the year.
"There is a physically disabled mother who can reach into a re-engineered crib and pick up her baby because of my dad," said David Conn. "There are dozens of children with disabilities who rode a bike for the first time because of my dad's work.
"My dad also taught us that you never learn so much as when you teach others," he said. "He could spend hours patiently tutoring the mysteries of calculus and physics to his and his friends' children. There was something about being with little children that sparked the inner child in him. He loved how open their minds were to new ideas. He could think like them."
He was a member of Beth Am Congregation.
In addition to his sons and wife of 18 years, survivors include four grandchildren.
Services were held Nov. 8.