Legh Richmond Powell IV, a retired general contractor and Vietnam War veteran who marched in President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 funeral, died of congestive heart failure May 18 at the Towson Gilchrist Center. The Lutherville resident was 78.
Born in Norfolk, Virginia, and raised on Wingate Road in Roland Park, he was the son of Legh Richmond Powell III, a Bethlehem Steel executive, and Frances Taglang, a homemaker. He attended Roland Park Elementary School and was a 1961 graduate of Loyola Blakefield High School, where he played varsity lacrosse. He earned an engineering degree at the U.S. Naval Academy and was commissioned an ensign.
In his junior year, Mr. Powell was chosen to march with a group of midshipmen in Kennedy’s funeral procession in Washington.
On the Saturday preceding the Monday funeral, he drilled in the rain, learning the unfamiliar funeral march, which has a slower cadence than a normal march.
“He recalled the actual procession [in downtown Washington] as cold, tiring and extremely sad,” said his son Bruce H. Powell.
He met his future wife, Carole Anne Lears, at the Roland Park pool when they were both 15 years old. They dated throughout their high school and college years, his son said. They were married at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen on June 19, 1965, less than two weeks after his graduation. Their reception was at the Belvedere Hotel.
His son said he sailed the Atlantic and visited ports from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean Sea.
“His favorite stories to recount were those from his tour aboard the USS Dahlgren, a guided missile destroyer, which was sent to Vietnam from Norfolk in February 1967 to conduct search and rescue missions in the Gulf of Tonkin,” his son said. “He transited the Panama Canal twice and crossed both the equator and the international date line.”
Mr. Powell stopped at Acapulco, San Francisco, Pearl Harbor, Guam, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Da Nang, South Vietnam. His final naval assignment was as the commanding officer of the USS Dodge County, an LST ship based in New Orleans.
After his discharge from the Navy in 1969, he joined the Ford Motor Co. and moved his family to Birmingham, Michigan. In 1972, he left Ford and returned to Baltimore to work for the Henry J. Knott Development Co.
He later worked for Mercantile-Safe Deposit and Trust Co. at its Hopkins Plaza headquarters. In 1977 he joined Glen Arm Construction Co., and in 1985, he opened his own commercial contracting company, L.R. Powell Construction Co. In 2001, he joined the Schaefer Construction Co., where he worked until his retirement.
“My father was an inveterate tinkerer with an engineer’s mind,” his son said. “Construction really was the perfect career path for my father. When my sisters and I got old enough to begin owning homes, we all benefited from my father’s generosity and depth of construction knowledge. He was happy to come over and help with repairs and home projects.”
As a young man, Mr. Powell enjoyed goose hunting on the Eastern Shore. He also liked family camping and an annual Bethany Beach trip. He was a crossword and sudoku puzzle solver, and was a Colts and Ravens fan. He attended his grandchildren’s games and followed Navy football and lacrosse.
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”My father bought a Sears riding mower,” said his son Bruce. “He kept that thing running for over 25 years. I remember going into their garage on more than one occasion to find that old mower disassembled and spread out across the floor. He would figure out what part he needed and then put the whole thing back together.”
Mr. Powell was a student of family genealogy and was able to piece together previously unknown branches of his Powell family tree from Wales to 1642 in Jamestown, Virginia. He visited graves and properties owned by ancestors in Virginia and the lower Eastern Shore.
“He had a keen sense of humor. He loved a good joke, and he loved to laugh. I have fond memories from my childhood of watching ‘Three Stooges,’ ‘Little Rascals’ and Laurel and Hardy reruns with him on Sunday afternoons, both of us crying with laughter. He also enjoyed movies by Mel Brooks and the ‘Pink Panther’ movies. The movie ‘Airplane’ was another favorite of his,” his son said.
Mr. Powell served on the board of Loyola’s alumni association.
Mr. Powell wore his Navy class ring until the day he died.
He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Frances Taglang; two sons, Bruce H. Powell of Baltimore and Scott C. Powell of York, Pennsylvania; three daughters, Blandy Becker of Lutherville, and Caroline Smith and Anne Crockett, both of Lutherville; a brother, Christopher B. Powell of Towson; and 10 grandchildren. Another brother, Col. Alexander W. Powell, died in 2010.
A funeral Mass was held Wednesday at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Towson.