Community leader Fred Thiess dies at 71
Wednesday, 07 November 2012 12:47

Led GDCC, Wells-McComas, soccer programs

by John G. Bailey

    Community activist and volunteer Fred Thiess Sr. died Oct. 22 after a short bout with cancer. The longtime Beechwood Road resident was 71.
    His civic involvement earned him the epithet “The Mayor of Dundalk,” though his accomplishments in Edgemere and Sparrows Point were just as noteworthy.
    For the past three years, he worked as state Sen. Norman Stone’s administrative assistant, dealing primarily with constituent services.
    “He was extremely competent and took the job very seriously,” Stone said. “He always seemed to get problems solved. He was my right arm.”
    Theiss’ professional relationship with Stone grew out of a 20-year friendship that began in the many community meetings that brought them together.
    “Fred was well-known and well-liked throughout the district,” Stone continued. “His passing has been tough for many people. Constituents have been calling on the phone crying, talking about what he meant to them and what he did.”

Thiess’ interest in community service led him to the leadership of the Wells-McComas Citizens Improvement Association and the Greater Dundalk Community Council, as well as the New 7th Democratic Club, where Jay Hidden remembered him as “a humble, but effective community leader .... Achieving the aims of his many undertakings always came before Fred’s personal feelings; he never let his ego interfere with anything he was working on.  Fred’s humility was matched by his loyalty to those he served.  He always stood up for the people and principles he believed in.”
    A longtime interest in soccer led to Thiess’ involvement in school athletics, which grew into broader civic action. Many of his children attended Sparrows Point High School. As the athletic director at the school since 2000, Russ Lingner got to know him well.
    “Fred was the nicest man I’ve ever met,” Lingner stated emphatically. He first learned to appreciate Thiess’ social skills when an unfairly harsh eviction rule for soccer brought the two men together.
    “Fred approached me the way every parent should deal with coaches. He talked; he didn’t have to scream or yell. In a calm, matter-of-fact way, he brought to my attention the unfairness of the rule for soccer players. He was right, and I changed it.”
    According to Lingner, his civic involvement and “knack for talking with people” were instrumental in getting permanent lighting for the Sparrows Point High School athletic field. “The turf project now on the map will be twice as hard without him. We need more people like Fred Thiess in this world. I’m going to miss him tremendously.”
    Neil Magness, former southeastern regional coordinator for the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks, had known Thiess for 20 years. “Fred brought a philosophy of recreation for all children in the community, not just for traveling teams and all-stars,” Magness recalled.
    Thiess, as an early supporter of a sport that long lagged in popularity in the United States behind other team sports, encouraged all rec councils to sponsor soccer programs.
    “He was hands-on and hard-working,” said Magness in summary. “I think the guy must have slept three hours a night, between working, volunteering and everything else he did.”
    He leaves behind wife Antoinette “Toni” Thiess, children Vicki Bull, Kimmy Whiteley, Fred Thiess Jr., John Mason, Malissa Thiess, Jamin Thiess, Nick Thiess, Allison “Scooter” Thiess and Kristen Thiess, sisters Nancy Harper, Elaine Clingerman and Kate Stevens, 17 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
    Three brothers, one sister and one grandaughter preceded him in death.
    A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated at St. Luke Roman Catholic Church, with interment at Holly Hill Memorial Gardens.
    Memorial contributions may be made to The Fred Thiess Sr. Memorial Scholarship Fund, 4102 Beechwood Road, Dundalk, MD 21222.