Anthony A. "Tony" Abato Jr., a retired Baltimore attorney who had been a partner in the firm formerly known as Abato & Abato, died Aug. 8 of lung cancer at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. He was 82.
The son of Anthony A. Abato Sr., a Naval Academy musician, and Mildred Steinbach Abato, a homemaker, Anthony Albert Abato Jr. was born in Baltimore and spent his early years in Little Italy before moving to the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis when his father joined the Naval Academy Band.
After graduating in 1951 from Annapolis High School, Mr. Abato earned his bachelor's degree in 1955 from the University of Maryland, College Park.
At Maryland, he had been a member of the ROTC and the Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Tau Omega fraternities.
He served in the Air Force from 1955 to 1959, where he attained the rank of lieutenant, then enrolled at Georgetown University Law Center after being discharged from the service. He worked several jobs while in school, including at the FBI and the U.S. Department of Labor.
"He worked during the day at the FBI and labor bureau as well as selling shoes at a local shoe store and flipping hamburgers to make ends meet for his growing family," said his daughter, Michelle "Mikey" Abato Monaghan of Towson.
After earning his law degree in 1963 and passing the Maryland Bar exam, he worked in the Solicitor's Office at the Department of Labor, where he participated in the administration of the Welfare and Pension Plans Disclosure Act, a forerunner of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, also known as ERISA.
In 1965, he joined his brother, Cosimo Carl Abato, in the practice of law at the firm then known as Abato and Bracken.
He pioneered the firm's representation of jointly trusted multi-employer benefit funds. For many years, Mr. Abato headed the Baltimore law firm's employee benefits section and oversaw its litigation practice.
Mr. Abato was appointed a member of the Labor Department's working group whose role was educating Congress and assisted in drafting of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act which was passed in 1974 by Congress. The law sets minimum standards for pension plans in private industry and established rules on the federal income tax effects of transactions dealing with such plans.
"He was an expert in ERISA and, earlier in his career, in Title VII civil rights cases," said James R. Rosenberg, a partner, in the firm now known as Abato, Rubenstein and Abato.
"He was just a wonderful, wonderful guy," said Mr. Rosenberg. "As a lawyer, he was pragmatic, thorough and very meticulous. And as a person, he was kind and generous with his time. He had been a mentor to me."
After his retirement in 1998, Mr. Abato, who had lived in Ruxton Crossing in Towson for 37 years, enjoyed traveling and spending time with his family.
"Even after Tony retired, I'd go by his home, he'd cook pasta, we'd have a drink, and we talked about the firm and various cases," said Mr. Rosenberg.
In his retirement, Mr. Abato was able to focus on several interests, included following the stock market and managing a family football pool.
"For probably 20 years, he ran a family football pool called La Famiglia and members had to pick seven teams," said his son-in-law, Patrick Monaghan of Towson.
"He used to tell his grandkids that he won the Olympic coloring event because, better than anybody, he carefully colored in the boxes without going out of the lines," Mr. Monaghan said with a laugh.
"The first thing he did when he retired was go on the Internet and track down the World War II-era metal soldiers he had played with as a kid," his son-in-law said. "He'd catalog them, keep track of their prices, and by the time he died, had amassed a collection of more than 40."
Mr. Abato was also a film buff, and collected copies of all of the Academy Award-winning films and most of the runner-ups, his son-in-law said.
"He was an excellent cook — and why wouldn't he be? After all, he was Italian," said Mr. Monaghan.
In 1976, he married Eileen Mary Wible, a former Hutzler's department store fashion director who established her own stores in Towson Plaza and Reisterstown Plaza. She later became a regional fashion director for Saks Fifth Avenue.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Abato is survived by his son, Anthony Albert Abato III of Kingsville; a sister, Annamarie Krackow of Baltimore; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. An earlier marriage ended in divorce.