John F. Hannaway, a Baltimore lawyer and public defender, died Oct. 17.
John F. Hannaway, a Baltimore lawyer and public defender, died Oct. 17. (HANDOUT)

John F. Hannaway, a retired Baltimore lawyer and former public defender who friends said had a tennis serve as fine as his sense of humor, died Tuesday of lung cancer at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

The longtime Rodgers Forge resident was 66.


"John was tall and had a sly, deadpan sense of humor. He was popular with everyone, including judges and prosecutors," said John Markus, a city public defender.

"He was a gentleman with a dry and disarming charm," Mr. Markus said. "He had a patrician Boston accent but fought for his clients like a longshoreman."

"He was a well-rounded individual," said Jack E. Calkins, a longtime friend who lives in Towson. "He was bright, a lawyer, informed, and a reader who belonged to a book club. He was a good-hearted person."

John Francis Hannaway, the son of Dr. Edward L. Hannaway, an oral surgeon, and Madelyn Broderick "Pat" Hannaway, a social worker, was born and raised in Manchester, N.H.

A 1969 graduate of the Derryfield School in Manchester, he earned a bachelor's degree in political science in 1973 from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.

During his college years, he worked as a garbageman, airport and racetrack attendant, on a chicken farm in a kibbutz in Israel, and rode a bike from Greece to France.

In 1979, he married Lavinia Edmunds, an Associated Press reporter whom he had met in Washington.

After working as a legislative assistant for Rep. Norman E. D'Amours, a New Hampshire Democrat, he enrolled at George Washington University Law School, from which he earned a degree in 1983.

After passing the Maryland Bar in 1984, Mr. Hannaway joined the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, where he represented clients in civil and criminal cases. He left the office in 1996 and went into private practice.

"John was a public defender for years, defending people in Baltimore with the least resources accused of serious crimes, from murder to drug dealing," said his wife of 38 years, now a Baltimore writer and Towson University professor of communications."He was an incredible attorney and a relentless advocate."

"John was unflappable and understated in court, but he cared a lot and worried about his cases," Mr. Markus said.

"In court, John carried himself with great dignity," said Charlie Weiner, a public defender since 1983 and a longtime friend. "Even though he came across like a Kennedy cousin, he was more working-class, and there was a really gritty ethic about the guy."

Mr. Hannaway worked for Albertini & Darby LLP from 2004 to 2006, and then returned to a solo private practice.

After being diagnosed in 2015 with lung cancer, Mr. Hannaway was hospitalized from October 2015 to July 2016 — a total of 220 days — in the intensive-care unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital.


"He was viewed as a medical miracle for coming out of the hospital," his wife said.

"John taught us about the power of hope and, for us as clinicians, about what really matters to the patient," said Dr. Peter J. Pronovost, a Hopkins internist and critical-care physician.

"I remember sitting with John's family and telling them, 'We won't quit and we'll have to take some risk, but if getting out of the ICU and going home is his goal, we'll work toward that,' " he said.

"He wanted to get home and needed the strength to live on the outside. He fought every day with the help of his team. His dog was his passion, and when we brought in a service animal, it made his day," Dr. Pronovost said. "It's important for the staff to see what the patient values, and sometimes it's the little things. He was a most remarkable person."

"He approached life in a lighthearted way and was a source of comfort when family and friends needed it," his wife said.

Friends and family members said Mr. Hannaway enjoyed long dinners, vacations at New Hampshire's Squam Lake, "dumb jokes" and playing tennis on Saturday mornings at the Homeland Tennis Club, where he had been a longtime member.

"John was just a wonderful guy who loved gags and had a great sense of humor. He had this jovial warm side," said Mr. Weiner, a North Baltimore resident.

"We played tennis together for many years, and John was very competitive. He brought some real strength to his game," Mr. Calkins said.

"He had a top spin on his tennis serve that at times made me feel like an ass," Mr. Weiner said with a laugh. "They could be impossible for me to get, and I think he delighted in bringing me to my knees. He could be unbearably competitive at times."

Mr. Hannaway, a longtime resident of Hopkins Road, attended St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church in Rodgers Forge.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Towson Unitarian Universalist Church, 1710 Dulaney Valley Road.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, James Hannaway of Washington; a daughter, Emma Madelyn Hannaway of Rodgers Forge; and two sisters, Dr. Jane Hannaway of Washington and Judith Hannaway Zikry of New York City.