David W. Roszel, retired state official, World War II tail gunner and ‘a pistol’ to be around, dies

Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun
·4 min read

David W. Roszel, a retired state budgeting official and Bolton Hill resident who was a former trustee of Boys’ Latin School, died of old age complications Oct. 28 at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. He was 99 and spent 84 years of his life in the same Bolton Street house.

Born in Durham, North Carolina, he was the son of Richard Julian Roszel Sr. and Janet Lemmon Roszel. The family returned to Baltimore in 1927 when Mr. Roszel was six-years-old. His parents bought a house on Bolton Street, where he lived for decades before moving to the Pickersgill Retirement Community.

“David’s Virginia accent just got deeper over the years,” said a neighbor, former State Sen. Julian L. Lapides. “Every afternoon, smartly dressed, he would walk with his cane, on a short stroll about the neighborhood. He was a wonderful person who enjoyed strong family ties. I can see him now, puffing on that cigar, and chatting with his neighbors.”

Mr. Roszel entered Boys' Latin School in the third grade and graduated its upper school in 1939. He remained a donor to the school, established a scholarship and served on the boards of its trustees and alumni association.

“David was a pistol,” said Dyson Ehrhardt, a Boys' Latin official. "When we put up the ‘no smoking’ signs on campus, he had just made a nice gift to our capital campaign. His first question was, “Can I smoke in the trustees’ room?' He got his way too.”

During World War II, Mr. Roszel was a tail gunner in the Pacific Theatre in what was then the Army Air Corps and flew missions with the 371st Bomb Squadron of the 307th Bombardment Group.

“He flew on the B-24, known as the Liberator, in unheated planes for many hours to reach his target,” said his niece, Merry Roszel Rogers. “Because of the long distances it flew, the plane was also known as the Long Ranger. He was stationed in the Moluccas -- the Spice Islands, near New Guinea in Southeast Asia.”

He later served in the Korean War and remained active in a reserves unit for another 25 years.

After his military service, Mr. Roszel earned a bachelor’s degree in education from University of Maryland College Park. He taught school briefly and then joined the old Eutaw Savings Bank. He retired nearly 45 years ago from the State of Maryland’s office of Research and Analysis.

“My uncle was a character,” said his niece, Merry Roszel Rogers. “His all consuming interest was genealogy. He loved the English royal family.”

Mr. Roszel was a world traveler. He sailed on numerous Atlantic crossings on the Queen Elizabeth II as well as other steamships.

“He loved the old Marconi’s restaurant,” said his niece, a Baltimore resident. "I was with him on one of his trips to England. As we were leaving Heathrow Airport outside London, he said to me, “How would you like to have dinner at Marconi’s tonight. He then contacted the restaurant and that was where we ate that night.”

Mr. Roszel often entertained his friends, family and bridge-playing partners at the Saratoga Street restaurant that closed in 2005.

“I don’t know what to do. I don’t have a restaurant to go to,” he said in a 2005 Sun article when Marconi’s closed. He recalled going there for the first time, he said, “about 1934 or 1935,” accompanied by an aunt and the daughter of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald.

In the article, he said he always ordered sweetbreads in the winter and soft crabs, crab cakes or lobster thermidor in the summer.

Mr. Roszel was a dedicated bridge player and socialized with his card-playing partners.

“He was proper,” said Joel Cohen, one of his bridge-playing friends. “He led a traditionalist, old Baltimore life. He had an idea of how things should be and he lived that way. And he was the real thing.”

Mr. Roszel was an Orioles fan but never bought seats earlier than May, when he said it was proper baseball weather. He made sure he had seats for the 1991 visit of President George H.W. Bush, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip to Memorial Stadium. He also drove to Cooperstown, New York in 1990 in his Lincoln car to see Jim Palmer inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

He was a member of Memorial Episcopal Church.

In addition to his niece, he is survived by two others nieces and two other nephews.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions no services are planned at this time.

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