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John Elder, R.I.P.

March 12, 2010
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A reader pointed us to this death notice for John Elder, the former city-employed engineer whose troubles with the law and association with building collapses City Paper chronicled. Elder died March 3. His last couple of years were tough. Besides two investigations by the state Board for Professional Engineers, Elder suffered the death of his adopted son, Timothy, in November 2008. Last year he had his own health problems, including a blood infection that kept him in the hospital for seven weeks, he said in an interview last September.

Elder never took my reporting personally; he returned my calls and even had words of encouragement. “Your article did do one good thing,” he said in our last conversation. “It woke the city up to the fact that curb retaining walls [to hold up rowhouses with dug-out basements] are not a good idea. Mathematically they don’t work out.”

In a negotiated settlement, the Maryland Board for Professional Engineers suspended Elder’s engineering license for 120 days in 2007-2008 for his failure to inform the board of his criminal convictions. A second case before the board, involving several building collapses, was heard by an administrative law judge last fall. That judge’s recommendation was still pending when Elder died.

According to the Sun‘s notice, there “will be a gathering of friends at 8 Patapsco Ave., Dundalk, Md., on Saturday, March 13, from 12:30 to 5 p.m.”

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