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Francis Xavier McGeady, marine contractor and engineer, dies

Francis Xavier McGeady was a marine contractor and engineer who worked in the redevelopment of Baltimore's harbor.
Francis Xavier McGeady was a marine contractor and engineer who worked in the redevelopment of Baltimore's harbor. (HANDOUT)

Francis Xavier McGeady, a marine contractor and engineer who worked in the redevelopment of Baltimore's harbor, died of pancreatic cancer June 14 at his home.

The Severna Park resident was 77.

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Born in Baltimore, he was the son of Manus E. McGeady, a marine contractor and plant engineer at the Maryland Drydock's Fairfield shipyard, and his wife, the former Monica Straub, a Teletype operator on New York's Wall Street.

He attended Blessed Sacrament School and was a 1957 graduate of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.

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He received engineering and architecture degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. He also did postgraduate work in marine engineering at the Catholic University of America.

He met his future wife, Ann Brennan, on a blind date in Annapolis. They were introduced by friends who liked to sail.

Known as Xavier or "FX," he joined the family business in 1967 and rose to become chief engineer. The firm, based in Curtis Bay, was then known as Martin G. Imbach Inc.

Mr. McGeady spent most of his adult life working in and around the ports of Baltimore, Hampton Roads, Va., Wilmington, Del., and Philadelphia.

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He began working in the 1960s as Baltimore was beginning to remake its harbor. He and his firm helped transform the old basin at Pratt and Light streets. He rebuilt aged and rotting piers, beginning with the site of the National Aquarium — where he designed foundation pilings — and continued to Piers Five and Six on Pratt Street.

He also worked extensively in Fells and Locust points, Canton and Fairfield. He had contracts with the old Bethlehem Steel Sparrows Point shipyard and the Maryland Port Administration. He helped preserve the eroding St. Clement's Island in the Potomac River.

"My uncle had an encyclopedic knowledge of the Baltimore harbor," said his nephew, Eamonn McGeady of Annapolis. "He was fastidious about keeping drawings for projects. He never threw a drawing away and, more importantly, he knew where he could put his hands on it.

"He also had a fine memory that went back for more than 65 years," his nephew said. "He learned from his father and uncles, although, as a young man in school, he spent his summers at a competitor, McLean Contracting, and working for an architect."

He remained throughout his life in the family business and its successor, Corman Marine Inc., where he was chief engineer. Mr. McGeady became the key player for management of its projects and for the temporary designs that were used during construction and cost estimating.

"Xavier was one of the few practitioners in Maryland who was simultaneously a professional engineer and a registered architect," said his nephew. "His professional passion was always related to marine structures and port operations. He was a highly regarded engineer and recognized expert."

Mr. McGeady's technical knowledge and practical experience made him a design expert of Mid-Atlantic port facilities. He also knew the technical limits of what could be built and what could not.

Family members said he helped plan and execute the construction of a Newport News, Va., pier and developed construction strategies that let maritime terminal operators update their facilities with minimal impact on operations.

He would build balsa wood models to help explain complicated projects, his nephew said.

Mr. McGeady resided in Severna Park for many years. He enjoyed being near the water and was a competitive racer. He skipped sailing craft and was a member of the Annapolis Yacht Club.

He also was the 1991 commodore of the Sailing Club of the Chesapeake, an organization where he was a longtime member. He won the club's Ralph Wiley Award, Lowndes Johnson Memorial Trophy and The Armada Trophy — an award given "for best overall racing performance and meritorious service to the Club."

His family said Mr. McGeady was an experienced scuba diver.

"He logged hours underwater in the Caribbean, the Galapagos Islands, and completed five diving trips on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia," said his nephew.

He enjoyed pistol and trap shooting. He also was a motorcycle enthusiast, and liked riding with his family and friends on back roads in Pennsylvania, Western Maryland and West Virginia. He and his wife had traveled to a family homestead in Donegal, Ireland.

A Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 609 Ritchie Highway in Severna Park, where he was a member and served on various committees.

In addition to his wife of 45 years, survivors include a son, Kevin M. McGeady of Annapolis; a daughter, Bridget S. McGeady of Baltimore; and two brothers, Joseph K. McGeady Sr. of Severna Park and J. Glen McGeady of Michigan City, Ind.

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