Joseph Otto McCrary, a retired Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory physicist and Columbia community volunteer, died of heart and kidney failure Dec. 12 at Oak Crest Retirement Community. The former Longfellow neighborhood resident was 92.
Born and raised in Greenville, S.C., he was the son of Charles Loyd McCrary, an optometrist, and Blanche Angeline Doggett, a homemaker. He was a 1942 graduate of Parker High School and earned a degree in industrial physics from Clemson A&M College, now Clemson University.
He served in the Navy and later worked at the Library of Congress before joining the Applied Physics Lab in 1957. While at the library, he met his future wife, Lorraine Hollis, who also worked there.
In his 34 years at the Applied Physics Lab, Mr. McCrary assisted in the development of Naval air and surface missile defense systems.
At a luncheon making his retirement in 1991, he was credited with influencing “the decision-making processes for every major combatant ship afloat.”
Mr. McCrary received Naval citations and was commended for helping develop and publish a two-volume work, “Surface Warfare Threat Handbook.”
After leaving the physics lab, Mr. McCrary became a volunteer.
In Columbia, he joined the the Foreign-Born Information and Referral Network and gave many hours a week to the service. He helped local Hispanic residents learn English and assisted in the citizenship application process.
“My father spoke Spanish fairly well and helped people from Central America and South America prepare to get their citizenship.” said his daughter, Linda Ellen Kuhar of Bel Air. “He was patient and he would meet them at a library, and many wound up coming to his home. They loved him.”
At Oak Crest, he was active in a reading program. He met with second-grade children from the City Neighbors Charter School in Northeast Baltimore and assisted them with reading on a weekly basis.
Family members recalled Mr. McCrary as a naturally gregarious man who was an active Methodist who attended services at Oak Crest. He played golf at Hobbits Glen, Sligo Creek and Ravenwood and watched the game on television. He also followed the the Clemson Tigers, Maryland Terrapins and Washington Redskins.
“To engage him in conversation merely required a question about the latest quarterback controversy or the money leader on the PGA tour. He was always quick to laugh and maintained his native Southern drawl throughout his life,” said his nephew, Peter Jensen, a Baltimore Sun editorial page staff member.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Oak Crest Village Chapel, 8820 Walther Boulevard in Parkville.
In addition to his daughter, survivors include a son, Gilbert Lloyd McCrary of Makawao, Maui, Hawaii; and four grandchildren. An infant son, Steven Joseph McCrary, died in 1962. His wife of 50 years, a former library volunteer at Howard County public schools and homemaker, died in 2010.