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Norman W. Lauenstein, former Baltimore County 5th District councilman and a longtime Essex lawyer, dies

Norman W. Lauenstein practiced law in Essex for 50 years.
Norman W. Lauenstein practiced law in Essex for 50 years.

Norman W. Lauenstein, a former Baltimore County 5th District councilman and a longtime Essex lawyer, died Jan. 23 from COVID-19 at Franklin Square Hospital. He was 93.

“Norman was really committed to the community, not only as a political presence, but also as a prominent lawyer in the Essex-Middle River community,” said Dennis F. Rasmussen, Baltimore County executive from 1986 to 1990. “You could always count on Norman stepping up and helping out. He was a real pillar of the community.”

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Joseph Bartenfelder, a former state secretary of agriculture who served as a Baltimore County councilman and in the House of Delegates, was a longtime friend.

“He shared a part of his council district with my legislative district, and for years we worked together on many issues. He was a salt-of-the-earth person who loved the water, bay and his boat,” Mr. Bartenfelder said. “When he was in the council, his leadership and voice were very important for both the government and the people.”

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Norman William Lauenstein, son of Charles Henry Lauenstein and his wife, Anna Katherine Freudenburg Lauenstein, was born on the family farm off Norman Creek near Middle River.

As a child, he grew up in Essex and worked in the family mercantile business, Josenhans Inc., at Josenhans Corner while enjoying playing sandlot baseball. After graduating from Kenwood High School, he was drafted into the Army near the end of World War II and served for two years.

While he did not attend college, he earned a law degree in 1955 from the University of Baltimore School of Law and maintained a general law practice on Eastern Boulevard for 50 years.

A Democrat, Mr. Lauenstein was first elected to the Baltimore County Council in 1974. During his 16-year tenure, until retiring in 1990, he served as council chairman several times.

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“He was a champion of the elderly and was rewarded for his work with the naming of the Essex Senior Cooperative Apartments as the Norman Lauenstein Building on Franklin Avenue in Essex,” Mr. Bartenfelder said.

“Norman also played an important role in what was then Essex Community College, which was a two-year feeder school for four-year colleges and for people getting jobs,” he said.

“He had a longtime relationship with my father Charles and my Uncle Walter, and I knew him since I was a young boy. Even though there was a gap in our ages, I regularly went to him for advice and counsel when it came to issues,” Mr. Rasmussen said. “He was a straight talker, and you always knew where you stood with Norman. He had a very strong commitment to the community. It was certainly a sad day when he passed away.”

“He loved public service,” said a son, Douglas Lauenstein of Perry Hall. “He loved politics but said they had gotten nasty in recent years.”

Robert Y. Dubel, superintendent of Baltimore County public schools for 16 years before retiring in 1992, was another longtime friend and colleague.

“I’ve known Norman for more than 60 years,” recalled Dr. Dubel. “He was a very different politician because he listened easily and was very sympathetic to education. His late brother, Carville, had been a very good principal in our system.”

Dr. Dubel described Mr. Lauenstein as a “very good and affable friend who was easy to talk to.”

“He was quite a figure in Essex, where he was known as the mayor of Essex, and where he made important capital improvements in the area,” Dr. Dubel said.

Mr. Lauenstein was still stopping into his office to check on business, his son said.

He was a member of the American, Maryland and Baltimore County Bar associations and a member of the American Legion and the German Society of Maryland.

Mr. Lauenstein was a member of the Hasbeens, Never Wuzzes and Wanna Bees Club, an organization of veteran Baltimore County politicians and workers as well as journalists meeting once a month for lunch.

“What an unusual organization it was, and even though I wasn’t in government, they made me a member,” Dr. Dubel said. “They had no bylaws, dues or officers, and Norman did everything, including paying the postage for the notices he and Tom Torporovich, former Baltimore County Council secretary, sent out.”

An avid boater, Mr. Lauenstein was a member of the Baltimore Yacht Club, where he was made an honorary commodore. He was a world traveler and a Baltimore Colts, Orioles, Ravens and Bullets fan. He also enjoyed parties and family picnics, his son said.

Mr. Lauenstein, and his wife of more than 20 years, the former Joan Bruffey, both came down with COVID-19.

“But they don’t know how they caught it,” his son said. “He had it for 11 days, and he seemed to be getting better when he took a turn for the worst,” his son said. “He had it for 11 days and died on Saturday by himself.”

Mrs. Lauenstein, who survives him, has recovered and “has tested negative,” said a daughter-in-law, Joyce Lauenstein of Perry Hall.

Graveyard services were held Thursday at Parkwood Cemetery in Parkville.

In addition to his son, Mr. Lauenstein is survived two other sons, Norman W. Lauenstein Jr. and Michael Lauenstein, both of Perry Hall; two stepdaughters, Pamela Aiello of Parkton and Lynn Doyle of Florida; a brother, Edgar Lauenstein of Essex; 13 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren. An earlier marriage to the former Helen Smith ended in divorce.

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