Elroy Christopher Sr., a beloved member of the East Baltimore community and a skilled electronics worker, died of kidney failure Oct. 10 at his home of more than 30 years. He was 67.
Mr. Christopher, who was affectionately known as “Big Chris” or the “Gentle Giant,” was a lifelong Baltimore resident and the second oldest of six children. He was born May 6, 1954, to Roosevelt Christopher, a longshoreman, and Eldora Christopher, a Social Security Administration employee.
His daughter, Danielle Christopher-Robinson, described her dad as “bubbly” and “full of life,” and said nothing ever seemed to bother him. She said he loved his community deeply, always finding ways to give back and help young people, and yet still prioritized his family.
“He led by example and was an amazing man,” she said. “I don’t know how he did it. I’ve never met a person who did not like him.”
He graduated from Carver Vocational-Technical High School, specializing in the electronics trade, and then went to Bowie State University. At 6 feet, 9, Mr. Christopher excelled at basketball, his family said.
Mr. Christopher did not graduate from Bowie State, his daughter said, and instead opted to enter the workforce and secured a job with Baltimore Gas & Electric as an electrical technician. He later got his associate degree at Baltimore City Community College.
While working at BGE, Mr. Christopher developed a transformer that the company patented, his family said. Later, he started his own computer building and repair business.
Mr. Christopher met his wife, Cleo, in the Harlem Park neighborhood while her father was inside a barbershop. He walked by and spotted her and the two started talking. They married in Baltimore on Nov. 1, 1980. Mr. Christopher died a few weeks short of their 41st anniversary.
His daughter described Mr. Christopher as a loving, adoring father, and a “student of life” who loved to teach lessons and often gave his children advice.
“He always said ‘life is all about relationships or it ain’t about nothing,’” Ms. Christopher-Robinson said. “And he made sure we knew if you could dream it, you could achieve it. Those are two of the many things I’ll take from him.”
In the days leading up to his death, Mr. Christopher was still teaching and helping his grandson learn math with a guide he’d made for him.
A man of many trades, Mr. Christopher also had a knack for DJing, produced music sets on WEBB radio and hosted “famous” neighborhood block parties, family said.
About 10 years after getting married, Mr. Christopher, his wife and their four children moved from West to East Baltimore, where he became actively involved in his neighborhood.
Eventually, Mr. Christopher became the director of the Covenant Community Association — which taught math, English and grammar in an after-school program — and in the summer, he ran a camp for the neighborhood children.
In 1996, he also started a community garden called the “Garden of Eden” in the 900 block of Glover St. Around the same time, Mr. Christopher also became the co-director of the Rose Street Community Center.
Tired of his neighborhood being overrun with drug trafficking and hearing people say they felt unsafe, Mr. Christopher set up a camp on the corner of Ashland Avenue and Rose Street. There he led a neighborhood watch effort at a tent staffed all day for 100 days. Family said he nearly got himself killed by upsetting the drug dealers, but that by the end he helped several individuals get jobs and off the streets.
Mr. Christopher served more than 20 years on the board of the East Baltimore Community Action Coalition, a nonprofit that helps residents with economic opportunities and other neighborhood needs. He helped provide lights and safety rails for seniors throughout the neighborhood. He also created programs to help residents obtain groceries and other household needs in easier, more accessible ways than having to trek to a faraway grocery store.
Mr. Christopher won numerous awards, including a National Press Club award for his community service and the Bank of America Neighborhood Excellence Initiative Award for his efforts in East Baltimore.
Paul Dixon, 48, met Mr. Christopher over 30 years ago and the two became fast friends. Until Mr. Christopher’s death, the two would talk on the phone or in person nearly every day for several hours.
“My father was never in my life and Mr. Chris was like a father and a friend,” Mr. Dixon said. “I know we all have to leave one day, but he will be so missed. I vow that everything I do in the community will be to continue his legacy.”
Mr. Dixon, who lives in East Baltimore, remembered how Mr. Christopher once helped a young woman in high school who couldn’t write or spell her own name. By the end of the summer, she was not only able to do that but write cleanly in cursive.
Mr. Dixon said he used to sell drugs in his teens, but once he met Mr. Christopher, the gentle giant helped him understand what life was really about.
“He taught me to have compassion for others and to stay humble so you can always help others,” he said. “He was truly a loving person and it rubbed off on me. I hope I can be half the man he was.”
In addition to his wife and daughter, both of Baltimore, Mr. Christopher is survived by another daughter, Demetra Doughty of Baltimore; two sons, Fred Doughty and Elroy R. Christopher Jr. of Baltimore; two brothers, Earl Speaks and Guy Christopher of Baltimore; three sisters, Denise MIllner, Diane Young and Deborah Christopher of Baltimore; two aunts; seven grandchildren; and a host of nieces, nephews and cousins.