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James Garcia, retired mechanical engineer and Engineering Club president, dies

James Garcia set up ship repair bases for General Electric.
James Garcia set up ship repair bases for General Electric.

James Garcia, a retired mechanical engineer who traveled the world building ship repair yards and was a past president of the Engineers Club, died of cancer March 24 at his home in Phoenix in Baltimore County. He was 87.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Newkirk and Tolna streets, he was the son of Joseph Garcia, a Bethlehem Steel worker, and his wife, Candalaria, a homemaker. His parents were immigrants from the Galicia region in Northwest Spain.

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He was a 1952 graduate of Patterson Park High School and was immediately drafted during the Korean War. He joined the Air Force and scored well in mechanical ability assessment tests.

Assigned to Western Europe, he flew to destinations in Greenland, England and Germany. He received an Outstanding Airman Award as a flight crew chief and left the military as a staff sergeant.

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He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park.

He met his future wife, Angela Diakoulas, at the University of Maryland. Their first date was at the College Park Spring Fling, a dance at which orchestra leader Ray Anthony played with his band.

“My husband loved flying,” said his wife. “He was an outgoing, happy and bright person. But most of all. he was a family man.”

After his military service and his marriage in 1962 at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, he joined pharmaceutical maker Mifflin McCambridge in Riverdale and later worked for the asphalt roofing manufacturer GAF at its Baltimore plant.

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He was recruited by the General Electric Corp. and worked from its Fort Avenue operation in its marine group and set up ship repair bases in Singapore, Venezuela and Dubai, among other places.

He and his wife settled in Southeast Baltimore near the homes where each had been raised.

“We lived down the street from my parents and my mother-in-law,” said his wife. “One watched my front door and the other watched my back door. It was handy for babysitting.”

She said they lived in that neighborhood for 10 years until they were able to build a home in Phoenix in Baltimore County. He supervised the construction of the home, which his wife designed.

“My father was constantly moving and was constantly driven. He was beloved by his co-workers,” said his son, Manuel J. Garcia of Abingdon. “He wore his heart on his sleeve. He would bend over backward for anyone. If you were the underdog, my father fought for you the hardest. He felt that being a good American meant doing just that.”

He also described his father as a workaholic who rarely worked a 40-hour week. “One he committed, he put his heart and soul in it.”

Mr. Garcia was an assistant scoutmaster for St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church Troop 199 in Southeast Baltimore.

“James was an intellectual man. With the scouts, he was energetic. He had a great sense of humor and was willing to do what it took to have the troop move forward. When the scouting program started, it numbered eight boys and it grew to 50,” said the former St. Nicholas pastor, the Rev. Manuel Burdusi.

He recalled how the scout troop that Mr. Garcia co-led stood at attention during the congregation’s Good Friday service.

Mr. Garcia was a master Mason and belonged to the Liberty Pickering Lodge.

He was also a past president of the Engineers Club on Mount Vernon Place.

He was a volunteer at the Greek festivals held at Rash Field in the 1970s and 1980s, part of a team that raised and disassembled the tents for the event.

In retirement, he often spent his time with his grandchildren. He also enjoyed trips to Spain and Greece.

Mr. Garcia will lie in state beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, 2504 Cub Hill Road in Parkville. Funeral services begin at 10:30 a.m.

In addition to his wife of 59 years, a retired Baltimore City Schools junior high school teacher, and his son, survivors include another son, John D. Garcia of Hunt Valley; a brother, Manuel Garcia of Seattle; and four grandchildren.

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