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Walter D. Kone, a retired Baltimore public schools educator and World War II veteran, dies

Walter Kone was a longtime assistant principal at Northern High School.
Walter Kone was a longtime assistant principal at Northern High School. (handout / HANDOUT)

Walter D. Kone, a retired Baltimore public schools educator and a World War II veteran who enjoyed singing in church choirs, died Feb. 4 in his sleep at his home in Waverly. He was 93.

Walter Donzell Kone, the son of Charles Littleton Kone, a carpenter, and his wife, Lulu Zink Kone, was born in Texas, Baltimore County, one of eight children, and raised in Towson at the old Bosley Hotel on Shealy Avenue, which his mother managed.

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“The hotel stood at 1 Shealy Ave. where they later built Hutzler’s department store,” said Sabra Irish, a granddaughter who lives in Madison, Alabama. “He loved telling stories about sliding down the hotel’s banister.”

After graduating from Towson High School in 1944, Mr. Kone worked at the Bendix Radio Corp. on East Joppa Road until joining the Army in 1945. He served with the 507th Anti-aircraft Artillery Gun Battalion, Battery B, in Manila. While serving in Manila, he had a chance meeting with his older brother, Kenneth M. Kone, who was serving as a lieutenant in the Army.

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After his discharge from the Army in 1946 with the rank of corporal, Mr. Kone became co-manager in 1947 of the King Feed Co. in Towson. He began working as a stockboy at Stebbins Anderson on York Road in Towson while attending the Johns Hopkins University at night on the G.I. Bill.

He quickly worked his way up from salesman to manager of the paint department, purchasing agent and ultimately manager of both the Towson and Mondawmin shopping center locations.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing in 1954 from Hopkins, and three years later he and a partner opened Hardware Haven in the 1700 block of Northern Parkway and continued operating the business until 1965.

Mr. Kone, who was also known as Don, then joined the faculty of City College, where he taught business management and supervision, eventually becoming a department head. In 1970, he transferred to Northern High School and earned a master’s degree in liberal arts in 1971 from Hopkins.

In 1975, he was appointed assistant principal at Northern, a position he retained until retiring in 1987.

“He was offered principalship more than once but refused,” Ms. Irish wrote. “He said, ‘Once you were principal you dealt as much with the politics of schools as with the running of a school.’ That did not appeal to him.”

“Many years after his retirement, he would still be stopped by former students who wanted to shake his hand,” Ms. Irish wrote in a biographical sketch of her grandfather. “One of his students once said, ‘Mr. Kone was so funny. He was so nice and I knew he liked me, but I still ended up suspended!’ ”

She added: “That pretty much sums up my grandfather. He never shirked his responsibility, he didn’t shy away from what he thought was right, but he managed to do it without any meanness, without ever degrading the person in front of him. He had tremendous courage and stood fast to his convictions, but he felt that the way he treated the person in front of him was just as important as whatever else needed to be accomplished.

“My grandmother told me before they were married that he had done his fighting and wasn’t going to fight anymore. And he kept his word until he passed away last week,” Ms. Irish said.

“Don Kone was a kind and gentle man who always had a sweet smile. We lived next door for about 40 years and never heard a cross word, as a result of a promise Don made to himself in World War II to be grateful to be alive and never again fight,” said Rachelle Hollander, a Waverly neighbor.

“He gave us the best advice on raising teenagers — if you want them to do something — find something to give in return. Which isn’t always easy to do! He and his family are the best neighbors anyone could have,” she said.

The longtime resident of 34th Street enjoyed singing in church choirs at Waverly United Methodist Church and later at Idlewylde United Methodist Church, where was a member. He continued singing until he was in his 80s and also played his guitar for patients at the Veterans Administration Hospital on Loch Raven Boulevard.

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“In retirement, he took art classes and enjoyed sculpting and drawing,” Ms. Irish said.

A memorial service for Mr. Kone will be held at 2 p.m. March 7 at St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church, 120 N. Front St., Baltimore.

In addition to his granddaughter, Mr. Kone is survived by his wife of 68 years, the former Sabra Sullivan; a son, Charles “Matt” Kone of Roland Park; two daughters, Donna Dannals of Sparks and Sabra Woodward of Waverly; four granddaughters; and eight great-grandchildren.

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