Daniel O'Toole
Daniel O'Toole (Baltimore Sun)

Daniel Ericson O'Toole, a documentary filmmaker who created a 1990 work about domestic violence and imprisoned women, died of a blood disorder April 6 at his Easton home. He was 72.

Born in Dundalk, he was the son of Eric O'Toole, a Bethlehem Steel accountant, and Connie Reesor O'Toole, a teacher. Raised on Robinwood Road, he was a 1961 graduate of Dundalk High School. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology.


In 1965, he joined the Peace Corps and learned Farsi. He worked in Tehran in a community development group. He served in the Naval Reserves.

"The first day the Harbor Tunnel opened, Dan came over on his motor bike, picked me and we drove through," said his cousin, Mary Ann Bethman of Phoenix, Ariz. "He was an adventurous person."

A photojournalist and filmmaker, Mr. O'Toole worked on numerous photo projects for his clients. He founded his own business, Group Two Productions, in a former Goucher College alumnae lodge on East 24th Street. He produced more than 300 video and multi-image productions.

"He was a big-hearted man who was empathetic," said former collaborator and writer, Michael Angelella. "This served him well in the communication industry. He was so easy to work with. He moved easily from the corporate world to advocacy groups."

In 1970, he created a multimedia slide show for the Rouse Co. He used 14 synchronized projectors to explain how Columbia was being planned.

"His show made the whole idea of a planned unit development come to life," said Richard Green, a retired advertising executive who lives in Royal Oak. "Dan was a straight shooter, and he did beautiful work."

Mr. O'Toole prepared a student recruitment presentation for the Maryland Institute College of Art.

"I visited him one day and he turned the lights down and started the show. It was so good, it raised the hackles on the back of my neck," said a friend and colleague, Harry Gilliam of Round Hill, Va. "I could not believe a slide show could be this good. He had the capability of marrying images, music and emotion and weaving them into a story."

Mr. O'Toole lived for many years on a Hampstead farm and moved to Trappe in Talbot County in the 1990s. He later lived in Easton.

"He liked the serenity of the water and the countryside. As an artist, he drew inspiration from his surroundings," said Bridget O'Toole, a cousin who lives in Easton.

Friends said Mr. O'Toole was recognized as a gifted storyteller.

"Dan was a personal hero of mine and a profound leader in the lives and careers of many in Baltimore," said Maureen Martin, a local filmmaker and colleague of Mr. O'Toole's. "He was a gentle giant, loyal and loving, committed completely to the notion that through conversation and storytelling, we can heal and prosper as a human community. He was an optimist and a believer."

Ms. Martin said his 1990 film, "A Plea for Justice," was produced for the Public Justice Center in Baltimore. She said it concerned battered women who had killed abusive partners.

"It was credited with contributing to the release from prison of 38 women in Ohio and Maryland, as well as effecting changes in Maryland legislation related to domestic violence," she said. "The social impact of his project changed Dan's life and redirected his career away from commercial work."


Mr. Angelella, a screenwriting professor at Towson University who worked with him on the film, said, "It was the film of which he was most proud. I remember the premiere at the Baltimore Museum of Art. There were collective gasps. People had highly visceral reactions at key moments. He wanted to make a difference in the world. He often talked with great pleasure of his Peace Corps experience."

His cousin, Bridget O'Toole, said that as a film interviewer, he put his subjects at ease. "He could talk to anybody. He knew what questions to ask. People trusted him. He had a kind face. He was able to get these women to open up, to tell their of their horrors."

His clients included the Johns Hopkins University, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the National Holocaust Museum, among others.

He enjoyed horseback riding and fox hunting. He was a founder of the Chesapeake Film Festival held at Easton's Avalon Theatre. He also collected antique microphones and rebuilt antique pipe organs.

Family members said he often said, "Our understanding of life evolves through conversation."

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. May 30 at the Third Haven Quaker Meeting House, 405 S. Washington St. in Easton.

In addition to his cousins, survivors include his life partner of 15 years, Sheryl Goodspeed, a portrait artist; and a sister, Kathy "Molly" O'Toole of Easton.