John H. Ditto Jr., real estate lawyer and history buff, dies

John H. Ditto Jr. displayed a lifelong devotion to the United Methodist Church.
John H. Ditto Jr. displayed a lifelong devotion to the United Methodist Church. (Erica Hamilton / HANDOUT)

John H. Ditto Jr., a retired real estate lawyer who was the legal counsel for the United Methodist Church’s Baltimore Washington Conference, died July 15 of congestive heart failure at the Edenwald Retirement Community in Towson. He was 87.

John Henry Ditto Jr., the son of John H. Ditto Sr., founding partner of the law firm of Levy & Ditto, and his wife, Kathryn Thompson Ditto, who was a secretary for the city of Baltimore, was born in Baltimore and raised on Norwood Avenue in Gwynn Oak.


After graduating in 1950 from City College, he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1954 from what is now Loyola University Maryland, and his law degree in 1958 from the University of Maryland School of Law.

He began his legal career in his father’s firm in 1957, becoming a partner and remaining there until 1982, when he joined the firm of Arnold, Beauchemin and Tingle.


Mr. Ditto’s legal specialty was real estate law, and for the last 18 years of his career until retiring in 1995, he maintained an office in Columbia.

In addition to his own practice, for more than 30 years he was legal counsel for the United Methodist Church, Baltimore Washington Conference, and worked closely with United Methodist Church bishops, district superintendents and ministers to resolve legal matters.

He was also on the board of the General German Aged People’s Home of Baltimore for more than three decades and was instrumental in helping them obtain financing. He assisted in the sale of Greisenheim, its former Irvington facility, and construction and operation of Edenwald, its replacement.

Mr. Ditto, who had lived for 43 years in the Howard County community of Dunloggin, moved to Edenwald four years ago.

From 1980 until 2014, he was secretary and treasurer of the Ancient and Honorable Mechanical Company of Baltimore, which was founded in 1763 as Baltimore’s original volunteer fire department.

An American history buff and genealogist, Mr. Ditto researched his family’s heritage to Colonial times and discovered that they had once owned a large tract of land in Baltimore County called Ditto’s Delight. Pursuit of his research often took him to weedy overgrown cemeteries in search of old tombstones related to his family, said his daughter, Ellen D. Burns of Ellicott City.

Mr. Ditto was a member of Howard Park United Methodist Church for 45 years before joining Bethany United Methodist Church in Ellicott City, where he held many leadership positions.

He and his wife were world travelers and attended the Passion Play at Oberammergau, Germany, three times, and had visited Oberammergau four times, family members said.

Mr. Ditto was a life member of the International Order of King’s Daughters and Sons, who sponsored a six-week summer program at Chautauqua, N.Y., where he had met and fell in love with his future wife, the former Barbara Zimmerman.

Interment Thursday at Druid Ridge Cemetery in Pikesville is private. A visitation will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at Edenwald, 800 Southerly Road, Towson.

In addition to his wife of 64 years and his daughter, Mr. Ditto is survived by a son, David T. Ditto of Treasure Island, Fla.; five grandchildren; and two great-granddaughters.

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