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Joseph G. Katona, teacher

Joseph G. Katona was a retired industrial arts teacher who taught in Baltimore public schools for 43 years.
Joseph G. Katona was a retired industrial arts teacher who taught in Baltimore public schools for 43 years. (Baltimore Sun)

Joseph G. Katona, a retired industrial arts teacher who taught in Baltimore public schools for 43 years, died Feb. 18 at his son's Hamilton home of heart failure. He was 83.

The son of Joseph Katona, a coal miner, and Elizabeth Gabri Katona, a homemaker, Joseph George Katona was born and raised in Connellsville, Pa., where he graduated from Connellsville Area Senior High School in 1949.

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An outstanding high school football player, Mr. Katona received a football scholarship to the University of Maryland, College Park, where he played until a knee injury ended his career.

"He really wanted to be an engineer, but the counselor told him he didn't have a strong enough high school curriculum to support that, and steered him into teaching industrial arts," said Shannon E. Katona, his daughter-in-law, who lives in Hamilton.

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After earning a bachelor's degree from Maryland in 1953, he served in the Air Force in Japan from 1954 to 1956.

Mr. Katona taught industrial arts mainly at Hampstead Hill Middle School for 43 years until retiring in 1996.

The longtime Timonium resident was a regular "Mr. Fix-It," said his daughter-in-law, who added his "scope and knowledge were wide-ranging, from carpentry, plumbing and electricity."

If Mr. Katona could not find a replacement part for something, he'd often fabricate it in his home workshop.

"His work ethic kept him going, and even as his health dictated home hospice care, he offered and actually managed to sharpen knives and scissors for his helpers," said Ms. Katona.

His wife of 47 years, the former Vivian Wisniewski, who owned Erdman Liquors, died in 2001.

Plans for a memorial gathering that will be held at his home in May are incomplete.

In addition to his daughter-in-law, Mr. Katona is survived by his son, Joseph Michael Katona of Hamilton; a brother, Paul Katona of San Diego; five sisters, Helen Shurilla and Cecelia Polito, both of Youngstown, Ohio, Clara Rankin of Las Vegas, Betty Zahn of Apple Valley, Calif., and Mary Thompson of Allentown, Pa.; and five grandchildren. His daughter, Vivian Joyce Katona, died in 2008.

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