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Patrick Flynn, city fire spokesman, dies

Capt. Patrick Flynn was a Baltimore City Fire Department spokesman who promoted smoke detectors and appeared in Avalon.
Capt. Patrick Flynn was a Baltimore City Fire Department spokesman who promoted smoke detectors and appeared in Avalon. (SUN FILE PHOTO)

Captain Patrick P. Flynn, a retired Baltimore City Fire Department spokesman who also had a screen appearance in Barry Levinson’s 1990 film “Avalon,” died of heart disease Feb. 12 at his Wallingford, Pa., home.

The former Mayfield resident was 88.

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Born in Baltimore and raised on Durham Street, he was the son of Patrick Joseph Flynn and his wife, Nellie Russell.

He was a 1948 graduate of Mount St. Joseph High School and enlisted in the Army before entering the city fire department in 1950. His father and a brother were also Baltimore firefighters.

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He served at Mount Washington, Curtis Bay and Belair Road-Gardenville engine houses before being named an aide to Chief Thomas Burke in 1975. He became the department’s first public information officer in 1978, and held that post until his 1992 retirement.

“He was not the most naturally extroverted man — within the family we were all a little puzzled when he took the information officer’s job,” said his son, Dr. Patrick Flynn, a pediatric cardiologist who lives in New York City. “But his candor and his authenticity as a veteran firefighter made him a natural success.

“He was a fixture on local news and information programs. He always cherished the relationships he forged with members of the local media, which were based on mutual respect for their respective roles in serving the citizens of Baltimore,” said Dr. Flynn. “He answered questions. There was no doublespeak with him.”

His son said he had an admiration for and worked closely with mayor and later Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

Capt. Flynn made television appearance to stress the importance of using smoke detectors to protect people and property. News reports said hardware stores often sold out of the devices in 1982 after 10 people perished at a Tivoli Avenue blaze.

In a 1992 Sun story about his retirement after 41 years in service, he made a reference to his Baltimore dialect, noting that once he retired, “I can wake up in the morning and say 'far' department all I want" instead of “fire” department — as he tried to pronounce it when he was on the air.

“Captain Flynn earned a solid reputation among members of the news media for his accessibility and his candor… Captain Flynn also was well-known to television news viewers who heard from him fresh accounts of tragedy or heroism,” The Sun’s story said. “To Flynn, substance always was a more important concern than image-building. He paid close attention to promptly returning telephone calls from reporters. And when three daily newspapers were published in Baltimore, he stayed aware of their separate deadlines.”

"Every time they called me, and I heard that a firefighter was injured or killed, my stomach turned on my way to the scene. But when I got in front of the cameras and microphones, I had to be a professional," he said in the story.

He also recalled the 1968 riots, saying: “For three nights, our firefighters moved in and fought those blazes, unlike fire departments in other cities at that time.”

His son said that as part of his duties as information officer, Capt. Flynn served as a member of the Baltimore Film Office from its inception in 1979. He coordinated city services for film and TV projects in Baltimore.

Director Barry Levinson cast him as a fire chief in his 1990 film, “Avalon.” Capt. Flynn joined the Screen Actors Guild and received residual checks. On screen, he appeared at a Fells Point warehouse fire scene shot on location in fall 1989.

In 1956 he married Regina Klewicki, an FBI secretary who worked with agents investigating the Alger Hiss-Whittaker Chambers espionage case. They married at Our Lady of Good Counsel Roman Catholic Church.

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“Their first date was to a baseball game, appropriately bringing together the two great loves of his life, Regina and the Orioles,” said his son. “His long career as an Oriole fan included attending such memorable events as the Orioles’ first World Series in 1966, the first-ever American League championship series game in 1969, the last Oriole game at Memorial Stadium in 1991… and Cal Ripken’s record-tying 2130th consecutive game in 1995.”

He also attended the first Ravens game at Memorial Stadium in 1996, his son said.

A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 22 at St. John Chrysostom Roman Catholic Church in Wallingford, Pa.

In addition to his wife of 61 years and his son, survivors include daughter Marynell Benson of Wayne, Pa.; a brother, Richard Flynn of Baltimore; and three grandsons.

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