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Jerome P. Mead, World War II veteran and retired Bendix controller, dies

Jerome Patrick "Jerry" Mead was among the first residents of the Pickersgill Retirement Community.
Jerome Patrick "Jerry" Mead was among the first residents of the Pickersgill Retirement Community. (Handout)

Jerome Patrick Mead, a World War II air crewman and retired Bendix Field Engineering controller, died of complications of a fall at his home Aug. 25. He lived at the Pickersgill Retirement Community and was 96.

Born in Baltimore, he was the son of Edward Joseph Mead, a cable splicer for Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone, and Alice Marie McGinity Mead, a homemaker and Girl Scout leader. His ancestors came to Baltimore from County Cavan in Ireland in 1833.

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“Their lives were centered on the old 10th Ward of Baltimore, an Irish community,” said his daughter, Karen Mead Merrey, who lives in Parkville.

He attended three parochial schools, St. James, St Anthony and Blessed Sacrament, before graduating from Mount Saint Joseph High School in 1941.

“Dad lost count of how many homes they lived in and how often they moved,” said his daughter. “It was the Depression and his father worked on reduced hours, but they made the most of what they had. Their faith, sense of humor and love for one another are a legacy.”

During World War II Mr. Mead had trouble qualifying for military enlistment because he weighed too little. He returned to the recruiting office after eating bananas, wearing heavy shoes and filling his pockets. He was eventually accepted.

“I think he wore the recruiting office out,” said his daughter.

As a recruit, he witnessed an explosion at the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Virginia. In a memoir, he said he was in a chow line when depth charges from an aircraft carrier at dock exploded and killed 24 persons, including a WAVE, a Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.

“He never forgot the experience, and it made him aware of his mortality,” his daughter said.

He inadvertently volunteered for duty at Naval Station Argentia in Newfoundland during the war after misreading the announcement and believing he was going to Argentina. When he realized the error, he tried unsuccessfully to back out. The experience made him learn the importance of reading documents carefully before signing them.

He was an aviation mechanics mate and air crewman. He was assigned to a Vega Ventura squadron and flew in patrols over the North Atlantic that supported convoys of vessels headed to Europe. He serviced World War II aircraft, including the Grumman Avenger, Martin Mariner, Curtiss Helldiver and Douglas Dauntless.

Mr. Mead developed tuberculosis as a result of his wartime service and spent two years at a sanatorium in Martinsburg, West Virginia, after the war.

On June 9, 1951, he married Margaretha Smith, a Church Home and Hospital nursing school graduate. They met on a blind date set up by a mutual friend from the nursing school.

After the war, he earned an associate degree in accounting and found a job at the old US Industrial Chemicals plant in Baltimore. He completed a Bachelor of Science degree at the old Baltimore College of Commerce, now University of Baltimore.

He joined Bendix Radio, later called the Bendix Field Engineering Corp. He worked his way up at Bendix from a staff accountant position to eventually become vice president and controller. His daughter said he was responsible for overseeing contracts with NASA, the Air Force, Navy, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

For a period in the middle 1960s he moved his family to Oxnard, California, where Bendix had contracts with Navy and Air Force facilities at Point Mugu and Vandenberg Air Force bases. As part of his work, he spent time in Saudi Arabia, Hawaii and the Pacific islands of Midway, Eniwetok and Wake.

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Mr. Mead became a member of the Bendix Radio Foundation at the Baltimore Museum of Industry.

After retiring and leaving a Towson home, Mr. Mead and his wife were among the first residents of the assisted-living apartments at the Pickersgill Retirement Community. He prepared and filed the incorporation papers for the new Pickersgill Apartment Resident’s Association. He lived at the retirement community for 26 years.

“He loved to talk and could get a story across — especially with a large audience. He was effective in doing it," said Dr. W. Anthony Riley, medical director of Gilchrist Hospice Care and his personal physician. “In his later 80s he would get up before an audience and speak. He was vibrant and cogent. He liked people and it showed.”

In addition to his daughter, survivors include another daughter, Lynn M. Janovec of Clermont, Florida; four grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. His wife of 51 years, who was a St. Joseph’s University of Maryland Medical Center nurse, died in 2002.

Services were held Aug 29.

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