Lawrence A. “Larry” Melfa, a longtime Towson attorney and an active member of his church, died from a heart attack Sunday at his Ruxton home. He was 72.
“Larry was a wonderful human being and an honorable guy. He was a man of integrity,” said Robert D. Kalinoski, a partner in Kalinoski & Riordan P.A., a Bel Air law firm. “He was a good lawyer and a natural litigator. He was an outgoing guy, had a wonderful smile and was great in front of a jury. He was very confident and very sharp.”
“He was bound by his faith and family, and always wanted to do the right thing,” said Joel I. Sher, a partner in Shapiro Sher, a Baltimore law firm. “He was a rare commodity.”
The son of Joseph A. Melfa, an advertising executive, and Helyn Francis Dumler Melfa, a homemaker, Lawrence Anthony Melfa was born in Baltimore and raised in Edgewood.
He was an outstanding scholar-athlete at Edgewood High School, where he graduated second in his class and captained the football, basketball and baseball teams. In 2015, he was inducted into the Edgewood High School Hall of Fame.
After graduating from Edgewood in 1963, he enrolled at Harvard University. There, he was quarterback on the Crimson football team and was a star pitcher on the baseball team.
“We had four things in common,” Mr. Kalinoski said. “We both played ball at Harvard 50 years ago, practiced law in Towson, had been quarterbacks on football teams and worked on legal matters together.”
“He was two years ahead of me at Harvard,” he recalled. “He was a good pitcher — left-handed — and was a mainstay of the pitching staff.”
While at Harvard, “he had trouble learning French and was diagnosed with dyslexia,” said his wife of 41 years, the former Pegg Fishel, a nurse practitioner. “Harvard allowed him to graduate without taking French — which was a tremendous exception to the rules.”
After graduating from Harvard in 1967, Mr. Melfa entered the University of Maryland School of Law, where he studied until he was drafted into the Army in 1969. In the Army, he was asked to take part in the investigation of Jeffrey MacDonald, an Army officer and physician who had been accused in the stabbing death of his wife and their two daughters in 1970. MacDonald was convicted in 1979.
“Larry loved to tell this story,” Ms. Melfa said. “He was literally just moments from stepping on a plane for Vietnam when an officer asked if he would be interested in joining the team investigating Jeffrey MacDonald.”
“Larry was so grateful he said, ‘Permission to kiss your boots, sir,’ ” Ms. Melfa said with a laugh.
After being discharged, Mr. Melfa returned to Maryland and worked during his last year of law school as a bailiff during the day, while attending classes at night.
He graduated with honors in 1972 and was admitted to the Maryland State Bar.
He practiced general law and was a litigator for 45 years and a partner in the Towson law firm of Butler Melfa & Taylor P.A. He had not retired at his death.
“Larry was a big, strong, intelligent guy that everyone wanted to be around, and he was a very fine attorney at the same time,” said Douglas W. Biser, a partner in the Towson law firm of Mudd, Harrison & Burch LLP.
“We’ve known each other for years, but first got to know one another when we tried a case against one another,” said Mr. Biser, a Towson resident. “Larry was a very forceful advocate for his client and, even though it was a hard-fought case, he always conducted himself as a gentleman.
“He didn’t take the case personally and there was no animosity,” he said. “He was a credit to the profession.”
“He was a man of generous spirit who was always there for anyone who came to him — family, friends, or simply anyone who needed help and counsel,” his wife said. “He never billed them and would tell them, ‘I’ll take care of it.’ ”
Mr. Melfa had briefly considered going into politics.
“I met him at a party the night before Thanksgiving at the Colony Apartments in Towson. He told me he wanted to go into politics because he had sat behind President Kennedy at a Harvard football game,” his wife said.
“I told him, ‘Don’t fall in love with me if you’re going into politics.’ So, he chose me over politics,” she said.
“He would have been a good politician because of his leadership ability,” Mr. Kalinoski said. “Larry was also a good communicator and would have been a very honorable politician.”
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Mr. Melfa was a member of the Trial Table Law Club and the Associated Italian American Charities.
He was active at Hunt’s Memorial United Methodist Church, which he had attended for 37 years and formally joined last year. At the church he sang with the choir, founded a men’s Bible study group, served on numerous committees and, when needed, provided legal advice.
Mr. Melfa was an avid reader of history and legal affairs, his wife said. He was also an active member of Wine Spring Literati, a neighborhood book group that his wife founded.
He was an inveterate golfer and tennis player had been a member of Hayfields Country Club in Cockeysville. He had been a champion in Maryland senior men’s doubles tennis.
Graveside services will be held at noon Friday at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, 200 E. Padonia Rolad, Timonium, with a memorial service to follow at 1 p.m. at his church, 1912 Old Court Road, Riderwood.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Melfa is survived by his son, Adam Joseph Melfa of Towson; two daughters, Lauren Aubrey Melfa of Ruxton and Mackednzie Melfa Peyser of Lutherville; three brothers, Mario A. Melfa of Baltimore, Stephen A. Melfa of Rising Sun and Philip A. Melfa of Nashville; two sisters, Diane Melfa Badolato of Baltimore and Angela Melfa Frederickson of Portland, Ore; and a granddaughter.