Former real estate appraiser Benedict J. Frederick Jr. liked to take things that weren’t working properly and put them back together until they were better than new — old television sets, an under-developed parcel along the lakefront, newspaper editorials expressing wrong-headed political views.
Mr. Frederick died Feb. 7 at Baltimore Washington Medical Center from complications of stomach cancer. The Pasadena resident was 86.
“My father was always looking for ways to learn new things and improve himself,” said his son, Benedict J. Frederick III of Baltimore. “My dad was a self-starter and self-learner. He believed there was nothing that could not be accomplished by setting your mind and energy to it.”
That passion for knowledge began when Mr. Frederick was growing up in Baltimore’s Guilford neighborhood, where he taught himself Morse code and built his own ham radio. It continued until his death, when he eschewed a traditional burial and donated his body to the Maryland Anatomy Board so physicians can learn from his remains.
As an adult, that fascination took the form of meticulously researching property values for condemned homes and businesses located along what would become Baltimore’s defining public works projects, rewarding his seven children for correctly learning the designated “word of the day,” and penning numerous corrective letters to the editor published in The Baltimore Sun and in community newspapers.
“When my sister, Kathy, delivered my father’s eulogy, the word she remembered learning was ‘parsimonious,’” Ben Frederick said.
“That’s a word that defined my father. Certainly, he taught us to spend our money wisely. Most people would say, ‘A dollar saved is a dollar earned.’ But my father would always say, ‘A dollar saved is $1.30 earned because you have to earn a dollar thirty to pay your taxes.’”
Mr. Frederick was born in February 1932, the son of Benedict J. Frederick Sr. and Dolores Schanberger.
It was during Mr. Frederick’s teens that he discovered a lasting interest in electronics; he would eventually build his own telescope and a collection of radio-controlled model airplanes and boats.
He also developed a lifelong enthusiasm for pretty, extroverted Evelyn Doyle.
The two teens were set up on a blind date when Mr. Frederick was 17 by his mother and her aunt. Six years later, they married. They remained wed for 64 years and together raised five daughters and two sons.
“It was a storybook marriage,” Ben Frederick said. “My mother is very outgoing and sociable and my father was very technical and analytical. They honored and respected each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
Mr. Frederick graduated from Loyola University Maryland, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business in 1954 and then served for two years with the U.S. Army Signal Corps.
But while Mr. Frederick might get a kick out of fixing his neighbors’ broken toasters and blenders, the plan was always that he would join B.J. & G.W. Frederick Inc., the real estate firm founded by his father in 1916. He quickly established a sterling reputation for honesty and thoroughness.
“We kind of grew up together in the field,” said M. Ronald Lipman, founder of the real estate firm Lipman Frizzell & Mitchell.“He was a gentle man in a gentler era. He was a plugger, and I mean that as a compliment. Not everyone was as smart and hard-working as Ben was.”
After selling real estate for 10 years, Mr. Frederick earned a designation as a member of The Appraisal Institute in 1967. His work included acquiring Hart-Miller Island, and he appraised the value of condemned properties for such public works projects as the Bay Bridge, the Baltimore light rail system and the Inner Harbor development.
But Ben Frederick said that family was always the centerpiece of his father’s life. Each morning, Mr. Frederick would designate a “word of the day” and write it on the family room blackboard, alongside the “saying of the week.”
“If at the dinner table we could spell the word, define it and use it properly in a sentence, we would get a quarter,” Mr. Frederick said. “I have five sisters, so it was hard for me to get a word in edgewise. I learned that each word I spoke had to be valuable, because every word counted.”
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That group feeling cemented after the whole family took up sailing — a response in part to Evelyn Frederick’s objection to her husband’s time-consuming weekend golf games. On a typical summer weekend, Ben Frederick said, husband and wife would pack up the car Friday night or Saturday morning. The family would drive to their boat and sail to such destinations as Easton or Rock Hall, sleep on the boat and sail back.
Even a very large sailboat gets crowded when there are nine people aboard for days at a time. Mr. Frederick said he and his siblings learned valuable lessons about cooperation and negotiation.
Survivors include his wife, Evelyn Frederick of Pasadena; another son, Michael Frederick of Reisterstown; four daughters, Joan Voshell of Pasadena, Barbara Taylor of Parkville, Maryann Jones of Cockeysville and Kathleen Frederick of Pikesville; 18 grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.