William F. Eberhart Jr.

William Ferdinand Eberhart Jr., a retired McCormick spice official and city neighborhoods activist who championed urban stream valley parks, died of cancer Tuesday at his Tuscany-Canterbury home. He was 72.

Born and raised in West Baltimore's Franklintown neighborhood on Crescent Street, Mr. Eberhart was a 1956 Polytechnic Institute graduate and earned an English degree at Lehigh University. He joined the Army and was trained in Russian at its language school in Monterey, Calif. He was assigned to Bonn, Germany, during the Cold War and retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves.

In 1968 he joined McCormick & Co. at its old Light Street headquarters. Family members said he helped develop its foil division for packaging and marketing spices. He was a member and later chair of a McCormick's collaborative panel of managers who assembled to recommend fresh management practices and assist in product development.

Mr. Eberhart traveled internationally for McCormick and served at its overseas locations as a computer specialist. He retired in 1996.

He was a past president of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association and was an early supporter of Inner Harbor development, including Harborplace.

He joined the New Democratic Club and became active in city elections. He was the club's president in 1982 and was also its longtime corresponding secretary. He wrote the club's newsletter, printing it on a mimeograph machine in his basement and then mailing it.

"He was a consummate community activist," said James Campbell, a former state delegate and city school board member. "He was quiet and low-key, and he took on the little issues and the big issues. He had a great amount of energy and did not always get a lot of credit. He was a backbone of the New Democratic Club."

Mr. Eberhart and his wife, the former Linda Jarvis, were co-presidents of the Tuscany-Canterbury Neighborhood Association.

"He loved people and was so secure in himself that he allowed others to take credit for his hard work," said City Council member Mary Pat Clarke, a friend and neighbor.

In 1977, he became involved in historic preservation issues when a Tuscany-Canterbury landmark, 39th Street's Ascot House, faced demolition and was ultimately razed.

"His preservation activism started with the Ascot House, and it did not end there," said his wife.

After his parents died and he inherited their home in Franklintown near Leakin Park, he became involved in projects in the old village where he was born. With a business partner, Fred Worthington, he restored 19th-century structures and bought the old Millrace Tavern, among other properties.

"He was very active in the Franklintown Community Association," said Chris Ryer, a former Trust for Public Land official and city planner. "He had both a personal and community commitment to historic preservation. He was restoring his own properties as he was helping his neighborhood get historic designation on the National Register."

Mr. Eberhart also became involved in the movement to encourage urban parks usage through walking and hiking. He was the chairman of the Gwynns Falls Trail Council, a management board for the winding trail that extends from the Interstate 70 park-and-ride lot to the harbor.

"He loved our parks and streams," said state Del. Maggie McIntosh, a friend. "His legacy was the thousands of hours he gave to the Gwynns Falls and his future legacy will be the Stony Run Path near Tuscany-Canterbury."

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake named him to her transition team in February 2010 when she took office. He also served as a board member of the preservation group Baltimore Heritage and served on the Uplands Task Force.

Mr. Eberhart enjoyed travel and was a cat rescuer.

Funeral services will be be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

Survivors include his wife of 38 years; a son, William F. Eberhart III of Baltimore; and a brother, David Eberhart of Ellicott City. His first wife, Joyce Barrar, died in 1963.