Most Beautiful? No, But Mighty Pretty

October 24, 1990|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

By volunteering for anything and everything that comes along, Chris Boetker has spent his entire life trying to pay back people who helped him out when he was young.

And the 84-year-old Odenton man known as "Mr. Chris" has o intention of stopping. "I tell people my age, and they don't believe it," he said.

"Anything I want to do, I do."

"When I was coming up as a kid, my family didn't have anything. My mother used to give me hand-me-downs. I feel I should do something to repay the people who helped us out."

This year, the Odenton community tried to pay Boetker back for all he has done by nominating him for the state's Most Beautiful Person award. He didn't win, but his list of accomplishments could fill a file cabinet.

In 1958, he organized the Police Boys Club in Odenton, the first and only such club in the county. He is a member of many associations and even today, after retiring in 1971 from 30 years as a bookbinder and printer at the Government Printing Office, drives sick residents to doctor appointments.

He still prints benefit tickets and programs for the area's non-profit organizations, including local churches and the O'Malley Senior Center.

In nominating him for the Most Beautiful People commendation, Pat Wellford, president of the Odenton Improvement Association, wrote that Boetker is a "rare individual in today's world, always willing to help whenever and wherever he's needed. His volunteerism has no boundaries."

Boetker's most cherished accomplishment is establishing the boys club 30 years ago.

He got Jay Winer, president of the Odenton-based National Plastics Co.

(now Nevamar), to donate a building, enlisted the help of inmates from the old Annapolis prison to fix the place up and -- in exchange for a 35-cent meal -- got the gas company to lay a 1,000-foot line so the building could have heat.

"I had a good reputation," he said, "which means people will do things for you. I wasn't putting anything in my pocket. I was doing it for the children. Everything I got people gave me. I didn't spend a nickel."

Even today, Boetker said he has people thank him for the club that kept them clean. "They tell me what a nice job I did to keep them out of trouble."

Boetker said he was forced to close the club down in 1979, after a group of older kids came in and started to take pool cues away from the children.

The men didn't like the fact he threw them out, and they returned that night and wrecked the place, breaking pool tables and stealing weight-lifting equipment. He said he was forced to close the doors, but later got phone calls from parents upset that the little kids had to suffer for the actions of others.

"I told them, 'I can't do that. There are a lot of good boys who are 14 or 15 years old. I can't close it down to them and just let the little ones in here.' So I closed it up."

The club remains closed to this day, but Boetker says he still hopes it can reopen someday. In the mean time, he continues to volunteer.

"I donate all of my time. Right now, one of my neighbors has cancer and he needs go to the hospital every other day. I drive him. I do it because he's my friend, but it wouldn't make any difference who it is -- I would still do it."

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