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Matthew C. Fenton III, an Army Air Corps and Marine Corps veteran who owned Chesapeake Cadillac, dies

Matthew C. Fenton III had a lifelong love of aviation.
Matthew C. Fenton III had a lifelong love of aviation.

Matthew C. Fenton III, a World War II and Korean War veteran who was owner of the Chesapeake Cadillac Co., died April 28 of complications from Parkinson’s disease at his home at the Brightwood retirement community in Lutherville.

“Matt was the epitome of a gentleman,” said Dr. William F. Fritz, a retired internist and longtime friend who lives in Riderwood. “He was soft-spoken, articulate and kind. He endured a long and debilitating illness with grace and courage, and possessed all of those qualities, and that’s what made him a valued friend to so many."

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Matthew Clark Fenton III, son of Matthew C. Fenton, a Crosse & Blackwell salesman, and his wife, Beatrice Trail Fenton, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised on Broxton Road in Homeland.

“Matt lived at 305 Broxton Road, and I was across the street at 304,” said Eugene “Gene” Litz, a Cross Keys resident. “Our mothers were in the same garden club, and when they went to meetings we were put in the same crib, so I’ve known Matt since we were 2.”

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Mr. Fenton attended the Polytechnic Institute and McDonogh School before graduating from the Gilman School in 1944.

“I was a half a year ahead of Matt at Poly and he didn’t like Poly, so he went to McDonogh, and he didn’t like that school, so one day he left and walked for hours all the way home from Owings Mills to Broxton Road,” Mr. Litz said. “Whenever Matt set his mind to something, there was no stopping him.”

Dr. Earl P. Galleher Jr., a retired urologist, was a Homeland neighbor and later a Gilman classmate.

“In the 1930s, my father built a house on St. Dunstans Road, and we were three houses away from Matt,” said Dr. Galleher, also a Brightwood resident. “We used to play football in his backyard, and then I lost touch with him for a few years, because we moved to Ruxton in 1938, and then I got to know him when he came to Gilman. We were in the same class.”

After graduating from Gilman, Mr. Fenton enlisted in the Army Air Corps and served in the waning days of World War II as an aviation mechanic.

Mr. Fenton’s lifelong love of aviation began when he was a teenager and he and a friend would ride their bikes from Homeland out to Smith Avenue to the old Curtiss-Wright Airport, near Pikesville, where they paid a pilot $10 to fly them around the city.

After the end of World War II, he entered the PLC program, the Marine Corps version of Army ROTC, at Dartmouth College, and after graduating in 1949 was commissioned a lieutenant and assigned to the 1st arm Division at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina.

In 1950, he married the former Mary Lou Dodson.

He earned his pilot’s wings at the Pensacola Naval Air Station and was eventually stationed in Korea, where his squadron shared a mess with future astronaut John Glenn, family members said.

Because the truce was signed while he was in Korea, he never flew any combat missions. He eventually resigned his commission and returned to Baltimore.

In 1954, he went to work for the Chesapeake Cadillac Co. on North Charles Street, which was established by an uncle, Foster Fenton. He worked in all of the various departments in the dealership and furthered his knowledge of the automotive business by attending the General Motors Academy in Flint, Michigan.

He eventually purchased the dealership, which he owned and operated until selling in 1986.

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Mr. Fenton purchased a Beechcraft Bonanza airplane for company use, and after selling the business purchased a single-engine Mooney.

“One of his favorite sayings was ‘There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots. But there are no old bold pilots,' ” his son, Matthew C. Fenton IV of Bolton Hill, wrote in a biographical profile of his father.

“He was a quiet man who listened to everyone and then he had his say. He was very bright, not aggressive, but not afraid of putting his two cents in a conversation,” Mr. Litz said, adding, “He was a very nice person, and Matt was the last friend of my youth.”

He continued flying for years until he had to give up his pilot’s license because of a heart condition. He then became an avid golfer.

Mr. Fenton was a member of the board of Provident Savings Bank, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Fairhaven Retirement Community in Sykesville and the Dartmouth College Alumni Council.

He was a communicant of St. David Episcopal Church in Roland Park, where he was a vestryman, and was later a member of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Lutherville, where served as junior warden.

Mr. Fenton lived in his retirement in Bonita Springs, Florida, before moving to Brightwood nine years ago.

“In recent days I checked my Gilman yearbook from the Class of 1944, and under Matt’s photograph is this quote," said Dr. Galleher, who is now the lone surviving member of the class. “'The mildest manners with the bravest mind.' It is from [Alexander] Pope, and that designation fit Matt throughout his entire life, and that’s the way I like thinking of him.”

Services were private.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Fenton is survived by a daughter, Sally Douglas Hahn of Briarcliff Manor, New York; a brother, Thomas T. Fenton, a former Evening Sun reporter who was later CBS London bureau chief, now living in New York City; and five grandchildren.

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