Philip DiPaula

Philip DiPaula ( / May 23, 2013)

Philip Joseph DiPaula, a retired Forest Park and Polytechnic Institute science teacher who received two Purple Hearts during World War II, died of Alzheimer's disease complications Saturday at St. Agnes Hospital. The Edmondson Heights resident was 90.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Piedmont Avenue, he was the son of Antonio DiPaula, who owned a North Avenue confectionery and fruit store, and Vincenzina Restivo DiPaula, a homemaker. He was a 1942 graduate of Forest Park High School. He then enrolled at the Johns Hopkins University.

He met his future wife, Dorothy Jane Woessner, in the fall of 1943 at the Hopkins Levering Hall cafeteria. She was also taking courses at the school and shared ties to the neighborhood where they resided.

During World War II, Mr. DiPaula served in an Army infantry unit. After landing in North Africa, he fought throughout Europe and earned two Purple Hearts. He was wounded in the neck by shrapnel during the Battle of the Bulge. A rifleman, he was a member of a motorcycle brigade that secured towns before the arrival of Gen. George S. Patton Jr.

"My father never talked much of those experiences," said his son, John DiPaula, a resident of the Chadwick section of Baltimore County.

After the war, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Maryland, College Park. He began teaching at Sparrows Point High School and then taught biology, physics and chemistry at Forest Park, where he also coached track and field. He went on to teach the sciences at Polytechnic Institute. He also taught at Ner Israel Rabbinical College. He retired in 1985.

"My father taught us that life was full of ups and downs and that you had to work," said his son. "He was part of the generation who lived through the Depression and felt that we are not entitled to anything. He was thrifty and would repair something that had broken over and over again."

Mr. DiPaula kept a small garden at his home and raised tomatoes and string beans. He also cultivated fig trees and protected them during the winter. He tied the fig trees with strong ropes, pulled their branches together and built a steel frame. He bound the trees with plastic sheeting and stuffed in leaves to provide insulation.

"The tallest point of what he made reached 12 feet high and people in the neighborhood called them his rockets," his son said.

Family members said that Mr. DiPaula was a teacher beyond the classroom.

"His teaching was not exclusive to the classroom and his students," said his son. "He taught his sons respect, devotion, forgiveness, understanding, humility, love of country and love of family. He was a caring man and had a good sense of humor. He always had a smile on his face. He also had the gift of flirtation. He taught his family by example how to treat people as we would want to be treated."

His son said his father always thanked people when they did a favor for him.

Mr. DiPaula kept a 21-foot boat at his brother's Magothy River home and spent weekends on the water. He also trailered it to Ocean City.

"It was too small for the ocean but he was determined he wanted to catch big fish," his son said. "It had to be almost perfect weather for him to go out as far as he did."

Family members said he shared his skill of fishing and crabbing by casting out a seine for sea life along the Ocean City beach. As curious people gathered, he discussed his catch.

"He explained ocean life with us and our friends. It was his biology class on the beach," his son said. "He picked up horseshoe crabs, starfish, minnows, sand sharks and once, even a seahorse. He was the one everyone went to with questions of nature."

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Gabriel Roman Catholic Church, 6950 Dogwood Road. He was a former member of St. William of York Roman Catholic Church.

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 65 years; two other sons, Steven L.T. DiPaula of Columbia and Philip J. DiPaula of Orlando, Fla.; a sister, Rosemary Betts of Seaford, Del.; four grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com