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John Warfield Armiger, Jr.

Died: March 4, 2015

John Armiger was a big man with a smile and a Corvette, blue with a white interior, at a time when few Yalies owned cars and even fewer owned a Corvette. He came from Baltimore, where his father was a prominent attorney and funeral company owner, and attended Gilman School, where he would later teach. His first job out of college, however, was in public relations for the Baltimore Orioles.

John’s initial year with the Orioles must have been a disappointment, as the Orioles finished sixth in the American League after having won the World Series in 1966. His former roommate Tim Roble visited him and found that he had lost a great deal of weight since college. “He looked like a completely different person, very handsome.”

From his short stint in professional baseball John returned to his old school, Gilman, where he taught middle school, headed the alumni office. and was the assistant basketball coach. A school official said, “John was just a wonderful human being who cared enormously for the kids and was passionate about people.”

In 1976 family duty called, and he left his beloved Gilman to join his father at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in the adjacent community of Timonium. John’s father created the cemetery in 1958 out of an old airstrip. John would be named cemetery president in 1976 and serve in that capacity until he sold Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in 2007 and retired.

In his years at the cemetery he earned his great reputation for service to the public and kindness to both bereaved families and his employees. John gave special care to the families of veterans and first responders. A portion of the cemetery was reserved for veterans (the Field of Honor) and for men and women killed in battle (the Circle of Immortals). John created the Fallen Heroes Memorial for the remains of police officers, firefighters, correctional officers, and paramedics. Beginning in 1986, John established Fallen Heroes Day, which is now celebrated in Baltimore on the first Friday in May.

“This is a way we can give back to those who protect us nationally and locally,” John told the Baltimore Sun in a 1992 interview. “Positioned where we are, we owe them that.” In the Sun’s on-line obituary, there is a video tribute that shows John at funerals for service members and first responders. Here pictures do tell a thousand words; one can see John’s care in comforting the mourners.

His employees adored him: “John was a most giving person, taught so many people, and did so many nice things. He really cared about everyone here,” said Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens employee Mary P. Auld. Another employee, Linda L. Chisholm, said: “He was the most giving, kind and well respected man…He was a most humble man and never took credit for anything.”

Upon his death, Cornelius J. Behan, retired Baltimore County police chief said: “John certainly had a warm place in his heart for police officers, firefighters, and veterans. He was the most generous man I’ve ever known and was following his father’s footsteps.”

John died unexpectedly on March 4, 2015. He never married, but left a world of friends and admirers.

George Wolf remembers:
A big man with a big heart. We were friends since the sixth grade, when we both attended Gilman School in Baltimore. I knew of him before Gilman, however, when my grammar school, Calvert, played football against the Gilman Lower School, and John was a large presence in the middle of the line. A memory from Gilman: when John blithely lifted me on his shoulder our senior year, and a pencil in his pocket got stuck in my thigh; I carry the lead point to this day.. A memory from Yale: walking down Chapel street early afternoon on Nov. 22, 1963, John leaned out of his Branford window and told me about the Dallas tragedy. After Yale John took over management of his family’s memorial gardens outside Baltimore; he always found free final resting places for veterans and first responders. I tried to get John to come to our Gilman class 50th, but he was too ill. I will always carry his memory and his smile; a good man who left too early.