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James O’Conor Gentry Sr., lawyer and general counsel who earned Bronze Star in World War II, dies

James O'Conor Gentry Sr. worked for Monumental Life Insurance Co. for more than three decades until retiring in 1993.
James O'Conor Gentry Sr. worked for Monumental Life Insurance Co. for more than three decades until retiring in 1993.

James O’Conor Gentry Sr., a decorated World War II veteran who later became a lawyer and general counsel to a Baltimore insurance company, died of complications from dementia March 3 at a daughter’s Cockeysville home. The Mercy Ridge Retirement Community resident was 94.

James O’Conor Gentry Sr., son of William D. Gentry, a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. worker, and his wife, Mary O’Conor Gentry, was born in Baltimore and raised on 36th Street in Ednor Gardens.

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Mr. Gentry was also a nephew of Gov. Herbert R. O’Conor, who was governor of Maryland from 1939 to 1947, and worked on several of his campaigns. He was also a close boyhood friend of John Steadman, who later became sports editor of The News American and later a sports columnist for The Evening Sun and The Sun.

“They would regularly visit the old Oriole Park at 29th and Greenmount Avenue where they would climb the fence and sneak in to watch baseball games,” said a son, James O’Conor Jr. of Pasadena.

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He attended Blessed Sacrament School in Waverly and was a 1944 graduate of Loyola Blakefield. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Army and served as an infantryman with the 317th Regiment, 80th Infantry Division. He fought in France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany, and at the Battle of the Bulge where he was awarded the Bronze Star.

Discharged at war’s end with the rank of sergeant, he returned to Baltimore and married the former Mary Lacy Cummings in 1948. He was a 1949 graduate of what is now Loyola University Maryland and earned his law degree in 1953 from the University of Maryland Law School.

Mr. Gentry worked in the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office and in the state Attorney General’s office before being appointed in 1966 to the 27-member Constitutional Convention Commission by Gov. J. Millard Tawes. He later became general counsel for Monumental Life Insurance Co. where he worked for more than three decades until retiring in 1993.

The former Guilford and Towson resident who in recent years lived at the Mercy Ridge Retirement Community in Timonium, enjoyed playing tennis. When he was 50, he learned to sail after his children gave him a Sunfish sailboat for his birthday, and when he was 68, took up painting and became a prolific painter who worked in oils.

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During the war years in Germany, he tried to learn to ski, then took up the pastime when he was in his 60s and became a member of the Baltimore Ski Club.

He had been a longtime communicant of Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church until its closing in 1972.

His wife of 63 years died in 2011.

A Mass of Christian Burial was offered Saturday at the Catholic Community of St. Xavier in Hunt Valley.

Mr. Gentry is survived by five other sons, Jack Gentry of Fallston, Bill Gentry of Perry Hall, Bob Gentry of Baltimore, Tom Gentry of Cockeysville and Joseph Gentry of Mount Airy; four daughters, Lacy Talbot of Ruxton, Ann Cunningham and Joan Carlson, both of Cockeysville, and Melanie Morris of Baltimore; 29 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren. His companion, Mary Rosewin Sweeney, died in February.

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