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Mark F. Grasso, a lawyer and musician, dies

Mark F. Grasso enjoyed playing Irish traditional music.
Mark F. Grasso enjoyed playing Irish traditional music.

Mark Francis Grasso, a Baltimore County attorney and musician who played guitar and violin at local venues, died of complications of non-small cell lung cancer on Dec. 15 at Stella Maris Hospice. The Perry Hall resident was 67.

Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, he was the son of Louise Rita Sica, a homemaker, and Francis Joseph Grasso, a Fort Meade accountant. He liked to tell friends he was born in the same hospital as Frank Sinatra, and added, “on the same sheets.”

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His family moved to Sykesville, Maryland, where they lived for a couple of years before settling in Glen Burnie in 1958.

He was a 1972 graduate of Glen Burnie High School and earned degrees at Anne Arundel Community College and the University of Baltimore School of Law.

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He was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1986 and established his law practice on York Road in Lutherville. He practiced for 35 years as the managing partner of the Trazzi & Grasso firm. He worked mostly on personal injury and workman’s compensation cases. He represented many police officers and some firefighters and teachers injured on their jobs.

He met his future wife, Mary Helen Seay, in 1979 in Fells Point at an Aliceanna Street pub. It was a casual first encounter, and they later were reacquainted at a square dance at the VFW Hall on Harford Road. They were both drawn to The Gandy Dancer in South Baltimore where they socialized and enjoyed Irish traditional music and dancing.

“Mark was someone who really cared about his clients and he took time to learn all he could about their situations,” his wife said. “He was dedicated and tenacious in working for them. He was quite a force when he went into court and was always well prepared. He was charismatic. He attracted clients through word-of-mouth.” She said he had a strong work ethic and was proud of the successful legal practice he created with his partner, Damon Trazzi.

“The Irish music has been a continuing thread in our lives,” she said. “Even though he was 100% Italian, Mr. Grasso became well known and appreciated in Baltimore’s Irish traditional music circles.

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In the 1990s, Mark played the fiddle in a family band, Relatively Irish, with siblings-in-law, Bob and Christine Seay. He often played guitar with his son, Eliot, a Uilleann piper. In recent years he played with another family group called Irish Relatives Anonymous, which included his nephew Bobby Seay VI and niece Michaela Seay.

Most recently, Mr. Grasso played guitar and fiddle as a regular at In Like Flynn, a Locust Point bar formerly known as J. Patrick’s.

“Mark’s love of music and performing knew no bounds and encompassed many genres,” his wife said. “He took up the guitar around age 12 and played in several rock bands in his youth, but he also enjoyed blues and jazz. In 1980, he began studying the violin, his favorite instrument, learning many styles: classical, bluegrass, Irish traditional and jazz. For a time, we played bluegrass music together, sometimes with friends.”

Mr. Grasso followed in his father’s musical footsteps and picked up the piano accordion and delighted in playing popular Italian folk songs. He also played classical violin with the Baltimore Philharmonia Orchestra and other music with his ‘hootenanny’ friends in Fells Point.

He could be heard informally jamming with an eclectic group at Bertha’s on South Broadway, playing everything from country to Led Zeppelin to Stephane Grappelli.

His wife said: “Mark took pleasure in playing music anywhere — at weddings, parties, festivals, fundraisers, nursing homes — on guitar, violin or accordion. If he was playing music, he was happy. Music was his bliss.”

“My husband’s confident, funny, sensitive, openhearted presence attracted people like moths to a flame,” his wife said. “He will be remembered for his dedication to family, career, and music and also for his wit, his love of animals, his joie de vivre — and his unforgettable smile.”

Survivors include his wife of 41 years, Mary Helen Seay, a Baltimore County teacher and library media specialist; a daughter, Alison Elena Grasso of Brooklyn, New York; a son, Eliot John Grasso of Springfield, Oregon; a brother, former Del. John Joseph Grasso of Glen Burnie; and three grandchildren.

Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.

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