Gerald F. Doyle
Retired Baltimore public schools educator and portrait painter worked to get brother’s remains back from Korea
Gerald F. Doyle, a retired city public schools art educator, portrait painter and Navy veteran who worked tirelessly to have the remains of his brother, a Korean War POW who died in captivity, returned to Baltimore, died Saturday of congestive heart failure at his Roland Park Place home. He was 89. “For those who knew Jerry well, you quickly learned he never met a stranger. His Irish wit, genuine twinkle in his eye, and his generous spirit endeared him to many,” Mary Jo Kotwas, an Ellicott City artist, wrote in an email. “He is a dear friend and mentor to many artists.”
The son of Walter Doyle, a carpenter, and Kathleen Doyle, a homemaker, Gerald Francis Doyle was born in Baltimore and raised in Walbrook.
Mr. Doyle, whodisplayed a talent for art in childhood, was attending Mount Saint Joseph High School in Irvington when his father persuaded officials at the Maryland Institute College of Art to let his son study there.
“He never did graduate from high school,” said a son, Dr. Kevin Doyle of Reisterstown.
At MICA, Mr. Doyle fell under the spell of the portrait painter Jacques Maroger, who had moved to the United States in 1939 from France, where he had been director of the Louvre’s research laboratory.
“Jerry was one of the earliest students of Jacques Maroger and certainly the youngest,” Ms. Kotwas said. “I loved when Jerry talked about Maroger. For me, it was like going to the movies, and I took it to heart.”
Mr. Doyle enlisted in the Navy in 1945 and was stationed in China before being discharged in 1946.
Active in the Naval Reserves, he was recalled to active duty in 1950 and served as quartermaster aboard the frigate USS Glendale, which was stationed at the port of Hungnam, North Korea.
His younger brother, Laurence A. Doyle, who was known as Austin, had enlisted in the Army and served with the infantry. In the early days of the Korean War, he was captured by North Korean troops, and held at a POW camp known as “the Cornfield” near the Yalu River, where he later died.
“I had talked my mother into letting Austin go in,” Mr. Doyle told The Baltimore Sun in a 2000 interview. He was with his mother and father when the telegram arrived from the Defense Department stating that his brother was missing.
The Doyle family finally learned the fate of their son and brother because a fellow POW, Johnny Johnson, kept a list of the camp’s dead hidden in an empty toothpaste tube that he was able to smuggle out of “the Cornfield.”
Mr. Doyle’s brother had died on Oct., 28, 1950, near the POW camp, and his body remains buried in North Korea.
“The story my father learned was his brother was part of a march, and when he could go on no longer, he gave his boots to someone else,” Dr. Doyle said, “and then the Koreans killed him.”
Mr. Doyle returned to MICA on the GI Bill of Rights, earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1953, and began his career as an art teacher at Garrison Junior High School. He went on to teach at Pimlico Junior High School and Patterson Park High School.
He later earned a master’s degree from what is now Loyola University Maryland.
He taught the art honors program at City College and Eastern High School before being named director of the city schools’ division of instructional materials center. He retired in 1984.
Ms. Kotwas first met Mr. Doyle in 2008, when he was assisting a fellow artist, Frank Redelius — a member of the Realists of Baltimore, a group of artists who had rejected the abstract expressionism of the 1950s — in the preparation of his book, “The Master of Keys.”
“Jerry was a disciple of the Old Masters and a lifelong devotee. It was an exhaustive study of Jacques Maroger’s decades of research on the white lead and linseed medium used by the Renaissance Masters,” wrote Ms. Kotwas.
For years, Mr. Doyle maintained a studio at the Meadow Mill complex in Woodberry, where he practiced what he had learned years earlier from Mr. Maroger in his own portraiture, which Ms. Kotwas described as a “principled set of methods.”
“He made his own oil paints by handgrinding powdered pigments, prepared his own glue to seal painting surfaces, and made his own painting medium following the formula of Jacques Maroger,” she wrote.
Two of his portraits, of Columbia’s founder, James W. Rouse, and his wife, Patty Rouse, hang in the lobby of the Wilde Lake Center for the Arts in Columbia, family members said.
“He was also a magnificent line drawer and was also known for his still lifes,” Mrs. Kotwas said. “He really was a master draftsman and devoted to the human figure.”
In 2012, Mr. Doyle published a textbook, “Master Sketches: Timed Figured Drawings,” that featured 100 of his original timed-practice sketches.
“The sketcher creates a cloud of soft lines, each getting progressively truer until the beautiful line that is sought emerges,” he wrote. “This is, in effect, sneaking up on the drawing.
He also included the admonition that “practicepractice-practice” for the artist eventually leads to success.
After moving to Roland Park Place in 2004, Mr. Doyle established and managed an art gallery along its hallways that featured work of prominent local artists from the Schuler School of Fine Arts and Matt Zoll’s Studio of Fine Art.
He was a member of the Charcoal Club and the HowardCounty Portrait Society, and was a former co-director of the Maryland Art Guild.
Mr. Doyle, whose late brother was never far from his mind, continued to research through Korean War POW and MIA groups to try to learn the exact location of his brother’s body.
In 2000, a Defense Department official arrived at his Pikesville home and gathered DNA samples.
“Nobody ever dreamed they were going to be able to find the bodies,” Mr. Doyle said in the 2000 interview, after learning the Army knew where the POWs’ bodies were buried.
It was his desire that his brother’s remains be returned to Baltimore.
“It was one of the most difficult and defining things in his life,” Dr. Doyle said. “He didn’t talk about it much, and when he did, you knew it was still all very important to him.”
In 2000, Mr. Doyle went to China as a participant in a Defense Department-sponsored trip with six U.S. Korean War veterans whomet their former Chinese adversaries at a dinner in Beijing.
“It was officially the first time that in 50 years veterans from both sides had met,” Dr. Doyle said, who added that the trip’s goal was to help retrieve the remains of the POWs.
Dr. Doyle wrote a letter in 2015 to President Barack Obama seeking further information on the whereabouts of his uncle’s body.
“The letter was passed on to the Defense Department, who replied that they were making every effort to repatriate these men,” he said. “I felt through their letter that they had not forgotten them.”
In June, Mr. Doyle had received an invitation from the Army Casualty Office to attend a briefing regarding the status of the MIAsandPOWs, but was too ill to attend, his son said.
“It is safe to say that we are continuing our efforts to bring our uncle home,” his son said.
Mr. Doyle was world traveler with his wife of 64 years, the former Margaret Cunningham, who died in 2013. He also traveled annually for 20 years to Ireland to visit where his ancestors had lived.
Services at the Garrison Forest Veterans Cemetery are private.
In addition to Dr. Doyle, he is survived by two other sons, Laurence Austin Doyle of Washington and Timothy J. Doyle of Sykesville; and six grandchildren. Mr. Doyle’s brother was captured early in the Korean War and died in a POW camp.