Dolores Bock Canoles, leader in S.E. road fight, 84

Helped with ‘kitchen table revolution’

Dolores Bock Canoles, one of the army of women who organized to defeat construction of an interstate highway that would have split Baltimore in two and destroyed the Canton, Fells Point and Federal Hill neighborhoods, has died. She was 84 years old.

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There will be a viewing on Thursday, Aug. 11, 3-5 and 7-9 p.m. at Schimunek Funeral Home, 9705 Belair Rd. The funeral will be held at Oak Crest Chapel, 8800 Walther Blvd., with a viewing at 10 a.m. The service will begin at 10:30 a.m. Graveside service will be held at Oak Lawn Cemetery, with a wake following for friends and family.
“Dolores Canoles’ life story is the story of East Baltimore during the better part of the 20th Century,” said U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.

Dolores Bock

In the mid 1960s the waterfront communities of Canton and Fells Point were largely industrial. The housing stock was poor, trucks choked the streets and the city and federal government were busily planning a highway to join I-95 with I-83, running right through the city and reducing Canton and Fells Point to interchanges.

Conditions in the two neighborhoods spawned a kitchen-table revolution that brought great changes, formed a network of strong community groups and launched Mikulski’s political career.

The struggle was called the Road Fight, and its effects reverberate today.

At the beginning of the Road Fight, politicians and city bureaucrats were indifferent to the women, but they learned not to be. The women linked arms and refused to let illegal truck traffic pass on Haven Street. They flyered and pamphleted and demonstrated against the expressway extension and went door to door for candidates they favored.

Dolores Canoles, Gloria Aull and others were leaders of the Road Fight.

She was born on April 8, 1927, in Mannington, W.Va., and grew up in Farmington. She graduated from Farmington High School. She came to Baltimore in 1948 to work at the Social Security Administration, and held a clerical job till 1951 when the children started arriving, according to her daughter, Mary Strassner.
She and her husband Tom moved to Canton in 1951.

She was involved with three Canton churches: Canton Methodist, St. Brigid’s and United Evangelical Church, where she helped with the choirs and musical productions as a director, pianist or participant.

She was a member of the Canton Christian Council which was one of the founding member groups of SECO, the Southeast Community Organization. SECO founded Southeast Development Inc., the forerunner of the present Southeast Community Development Inc. SECO, an umbrella group of more than 30 community associations, was a strong political and social force and a model for the founding of the Waterfront Coalition, which today serves as a watchdog of development along the waterfront.

Canoles was the first correspondence secretary of SECO. She also served as treasurer for the late Cornell Dypski’s campaign for the Maryland State Senate.

Dypski appointed Canoles one of three commissioners to the Baltimore Liquor Board in 1980; she was the first woman to serve on the board.

She helped in several campaigns to save the Canton Library, which was often threatened with closure, and was one of the founding members of the Friends of the Canton Library.

Canton, Fells Point and Federal Hill, three neighborhoods that would have been leveled by The Road, are today three of Baltimore’s most prosperous and healthy neighborhoods.

“Dolores was a major reason that the proposal to build Interstate 95 through East Baltimore never materialized,” said Mikulski. “She and I fought side by side against misguided interests who sought to destroy our neighborhoods and our way of life. Delores was a genius organizer and a courageous foot soldier. I loved her for her moral convictions, loyalty and zest for life.”

by Jacqueline Watts
editor@baltimoreguide.com

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