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Roland S. Wolf, retired city firefighter who loved collecting coins and stamps and visiting lighthouses, dies

Roland S. Wolf collected coins and stamps, and had a passion for lighthouses.
Roland S. Wolf collected coins and stamps, and had a passion for lighthouses. (Family photo / HANDOUT)

Roland S. Wolf, a retired career city firefighter who had a second business refinishing floors and liked collecting coins and stamps and visiting East Coast lighthouses, died of congestive heart failure on July 6 at Brightview Assisted Living in Westminster. He was 90.

“Roland was a bon vivant and quite a character,” said Thomas Greig, a fellow city firefighter. “He brought his happy face, wonderful attitude and sense of humor to work each day, along with family values and a love for his family.”

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Roland Stewart Wolf, son of Stewart Wolf, a floor finisher, and his wife, Dorothy Lang Wolf, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised on West Cold Spring Lane.

He was a graduate of Forest Park High School where he met and fell in love with the former Virginia Ross, who he married in 1951.

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Mr. Wolf served in the Navy from 1948 to to 1949, and joined the Baltimore City Fire Department in 1953.

“He started at Engine 13 where he was the chief’s driver,” said his daughter, V. Carol Henry of Fairplay, Washington County.

Mr. Wolf spent the majority of his career at Engine 40 at Liberty Heights and Ferndale avenues in Northwest Baltimore. He was a pump operator, and became friends with Mr. Greig.

“He’d drive the engine wherever we went,” recalled Mr. Greig. “He was one of those guys who could drift — you know how a car drifts when you get into a turn — well, Roland could do that with the engine, and everyone liked riding with him.”

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Mr. Wolf’s driving skills earned him an appropriate and a well-earned nickname.

“The way he always made that turn from Wabash Avenue onto Rogers Avenue got him the nickname of the Wabash Cannonball. The way he handled the engine was like he was driving an MG,” Mr. Greig said. “He was a fast driver, but a safe one.”

After arriving at a fire scene, Mr. Wolf became an indispensable presence.

“Once we were on the fire ground, he was in 20 places at one time,” Mr. Greig said. “He went beyond his normal duties all the time and was very dependable. You could put your life in his hands and you knew you’d be OK.”

“We were good friends from 1970 to the day he died,” said Mr. Greig, who retired in 1996 from Engine 56 in Northeast Baltimore.

In addition to his career as a firefighter, Mr. Wolf had a side job refinishing floors.

“He worked with a lot of contractors,” his daughter said.

“Roland was excellent at that. In the late 1960s, he did Bancroft Hall at the Naval Academy and he was proud of that,” Mr. Greig said. “He didn’t do shacks, he did million dollar homes in the valley. He did quality work.”

Mr. Wolf, who retired in 1986, was a man of many interests.

He enjoyed traveling with his wife, collecting coins and stampsand visiting lighthouses.

“He was well-traveled, very knowledgeable and enjoyed doing crossword puzzles,” Mr. Greig said.

“They took bus trips all over the United States and enjoyed meeting people,” his daughter said. “They rented a trailer near Tampa, Florida, when the owner went to Arizona from January through March.”

Visiting lighthouses was another passion of Mr. Wolf’s .

“I think his favorite lighthouses were in Solomons and the one in St. Michaels,” his daughter said. “He also liked East Coast lighthouses, especially those in North Carolina and South Carolina.

The two lighthouses in Solomons that he admired were the Drum Point Light and Cove Point Light, and the former 1879 Hooper Strait Light which once guarded the entrance to Tangier Sound and in 1966 was relocated to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels. The historic screw-pile light is one of four surviving Chesapeake Bay screw-pile lights found in the U.S.

Mr. Wolf was also a collector of U.S. and some foreign coins and stamps.

“His collection of stamps fill 30 books,” his daughter said.

Mr. Wolf had a second nickname that arose from a family fishing trip.

“I was a young girl and jealous because only the men and my cousins could go. They wouldn’t let me go because I was a girl, and I guess they were afraid I’d hear stories I shouldn’t hear,” Ms. Henry recalled.

“It was sunny and he always wore a hat,” she said. “Earlier that day, before going on the trip, he had reached into my mother’s bag for lip balm. He pulled it out and applied to his lips, but it wasn’t lip balm but rather pink lipstick, and thereafter they called him Pink Lips.”

Ms. Henry sort of got her revenge because they didn’t catch any fish that day.

“I told them if they had let me go I would have out fished them,” she said with a laugh.

Mr. Wolf, a longtime Westminster resident, attended Church of the Open Door.

The family will receive friends Sunday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Haight Funeral Home, 6416 Sykesville Road, in Sykesville.

In addition to his wife of 70 years, a former Sykesville Savings & Loan teller, and his daughter, Mr. Wolf is survived by a son, Stewart Ross Wolf of Manchester; a grandson; and many nieces and nephews.

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