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John Knox Shaw III, sportsman and real estate agent, dies

John Knox Shaw III, a sportsman in race enterprises, has died at 75.
John Knox Shaw III, a sportsman in race enterprises, has died at 75. (family photo)

John Knox Shaw III, a real estate agent and sportsman, died of kidney failure June 26 at his home in Glyndon. He was 75.

Born Nov. 12, 1944, in Baltimore to John K. Shaw Jr., a sportsman, and Nancy Wickes Shaw, a homemaker, Mr. Shaw made a name for himself in horse and auto racing. Later, as a real estate agent, he worked with Baltimore County’s horse farms and notable properties, according to a family biography.

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As a youth, he loved horses. He frequently hunted and rode with his father, then a master of foxhounds for the Greenspring Valley Hounds hunt club. Mr. Shaw eventually served as the secretary of the hunt and was a lifelong committee member of the Grand National Steeplechase in Baltimore County.

Mr. Shaw attended Calvert and Gilman schools before eventually graduating from Avon Old Farms School, an all-boys boarding school in Connecticut. He attended the University of Arizona in Tucson for six years.

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Mr. Shaw’s childhood passion for horse racing later led to his involvement in auto racing.

After college, Mr. Shaw teamed with friend and business partner Michael Keyser to form the auto team Toad Hall Motor Racing and the venture Photographic Unlimited, according to the family biography.

The two raced between 1969 and 1976 in the U.S. and internationally, winning races at Sebring in Florida and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France, the biography states. It also recounts that in 1972, Mr. Shaw worked with Mr. Keyser as he directed the feature-length racing documentary “The Speed Merchants,” narrated by drivers Mario Andretti and Vic Elford. The film was released in 1974.

Mr. Shaw also saw success with Ben Nevis, the prominent horse ridden by his friend Charles Fenwick and owned by Mr. Shaw’s godfather, Redmond Stewart. Mr. Shaw crafted the team’s campaign: They won the Maryland Hunt Cup in 1977 and 1978, then went to England to participate in the Grand National steeplechase. After a failed first effort, the team won in 1980.

When Mr. Shaw and Mr. Fenwick took the team to the Grand National, horsemen friends in the states gave Mr. Shaw money to bet on Ben Nevis. Mr. Fenwick recalled the joy of beating the 40-to-1 odds.

“It was a very exciting event,” Mr. Fenwick said.

Mr. Shaw worked in racing for nearly 15 years and with his godfather for nearly 10 years. He also was a real estate agent with O’Connor, Piper & Flynn for 15 years.

Mr. Shaw’s widow, Fredericka Savage Shaw, remembers him as “a devoted husband and father, and beloved friend.” Mr. Shaw was also a skilled fisherman, she said, and an avid sportsman with a “dead-eye shot in a duck or goose blind.”

Mr. Shaw faithfully attended his children’s lacrosse, hockey and field hockey matches. He was a lover of outdoors, grassy fields and open space. Besides Maryland, the family also lived in Maine.

“He was never happier than in the company of friends and fans of his infectious sense of humor, holding court with a cocktail in hand, and great music as a soundtrack. He rarely let precise details get in the way of a good story, and riotous laughter would always ensue,” his wife of 50 years said.

Services were held July 1 at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Owings Mills.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Shaw is survived by a daughter, Liza Shaw of Petaluma, California; a son, Jack Shaw of Praz-de-Fort, Switzerland; and a sister, Betty Shaw Weymouth of Monkton.

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