Robert F. Fanto, a retired longtime Baltimore County public schools guidance counselor, died of cancer Wednesday at his Timonium home.
He was 80.
The son of a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad machinist and a homemaker, Mr. Fanto was born in Cumberland and raised in Piedmont, W.Va., and Keyser, W.Va.
After graduation in 1949 from Keyser High School, he enlisted in the Navy. He served as a radioman to the commander of the 2nd Fleet in the Atlantic until being discharged in 1953.
He earned a bachelor's degree in social studies and English in 1957, and a master's degree in counseling in 1960. Both degrees were from West Virginia University.
He was married in 1958 to the former Elizabeth Cuppert.
"We met in West Virginia. He was my next-door neighbor. I was 15 and he was 21," said Mrs. Fanto, who taught English at Dulaney High School until retiring in 1997.
Mr. Fanto began his career as an educator teaching in a public school in New Richmond, Ohio, where he established and headed its guidance department. In 1963, he joined Baltimore County public schools.
He was a guidance counselor at Parkville Middle School and later General John Stricker Middle School.
In 1970, he joined the faculty of Dulaney High School, where he headed the guidance department for 21 years before retiring in 1991.
At the time of his retirement, his supervisor, Roland Savage, wrote Mr. Fanto a letter, praising his professional candor.
"If what we in guidance thought might be an eagle turned out to be 'Howard the Duck,' we could count on you to call it a duck, give us reasons why it was, and offer suggestions on how to get it to fly more like an eagle."
Mr. Fanto never regretted turning down promotions to administrative positions because he enjoyed the reward of working with students, and felt his strengths were in guidance and counseling, said his wife.
"Because he was in the immediate office, I had the opportunity to observe Bob doing his job as head counselor, and it was obvious he very much enjoyed doing it. He was a skilled counselor," said Maynard N. Keadle, who was principal of Dulaney from 1970 to 1990.
"One day I was with a group and they asked if he'd be interested in an administrative job and he immediately said 'No,' and that he'd 'continue doing what he was doing because he enjoyed it,'" said Mr. Keadle.
"The students liked him and he always had answers to the problems they had. He really knew his job and did it well," said Mr. Keadle.
"Bob was a happy-go-lucky type of guy who always had a smile on his face and liked joking around," said George Sourlis, who directed a work study program at Dulaney.
"But he was sharp and attuned to the guidance world, and the students never got shortchanged," he said. "He was very popular with them and respected by his colleagues."
Mr. Sourlis said Mr. Fanto was also a good conversationalist. "He could easily hold up his end of the conversation and kept all of us on out toes," he said.
After Mr. Fanto retired, he taught for a decade at the Renaissance Institute at what is now Notre Dame of Maryland University, and was serving as vice president of the institute at the time of his death. He volunteered with the National Emergency Medical Association and at Greater Baltimore Medical Center for 10 years.
He enjoyed acting at Theatre Hopkins and was an extra in "Homicide: Life on the Street" during the 1990s, and appeared in numerous commercials.
Mr. Fanto was a ham radio operator and a member of the Baltimore Amateur Radio Club. He enjoyed playing the piano, reading and teaching literature.
He was a communicant of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Cockeysville.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Lemmon Funeral Home, 10 W. Padonia Road, Timonium.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Fanto is survived by two sons, Mark S. Fanto of Cockeysville and Dr. Stephen M. Fanto of Lewes, Del.; a brother, John R. Fanto of Rawlings, Allegany County; and six grandchildren.