Ralph Norman Elsmo
Ralph Norman Elsmo, a promoter and songwriter who entertained a generation of Baltimore sports fans by staging Colt halftime shows and Preakness infield celebrations, died last week after a long struggle with chronic emphysema. The Ruxton resident was 73.
Burial is scheduled for today at 2 p.m. at the Garrison Forest Veterans Cemetery in Owings Mills. A 4 p.m. memorial service will be held at Hunts Memorial United Methodist Church at Joppa Road and Old Court Road, with a reception to follow.
A native of Racine, Wis., Mr. Elsmo attended the University of Wisconsin for two years, playing football as a running back. After World War II broke out, he joined the U.S. Army and served as a captain with the Army's Norwegian ski troops. Later, he worked with the wartime Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Mr. Elsmo's wife of 50 years, Ione, recalled yesterday how she and her husband first came to Baltimore from Arlington, Va., where they were living at the end of the war. Mr. Elsmo had been offered a contract with the Redskins, but he was looking to establish himself in business.
So he applied for and won a job as a salesman for a Baltimore trucking firm. While the couple had talked of moving back to the Midwest, she said, Mr. Elsmo "loved Baltimore -- he just loved the city and he stayed."
Mr. Elsmo, known to friends as "Moose," went on to build a public relations and advertising career that included 25 years of organizing Preakness infield celebrations and 20 years staging Colt halftime shows. He helped the original Baltimore Bullets basketball team sell tickets, and, as a concert promoter in the 1960s, staged performances by such well-known entertainers as DTC the Smothers Brothers, Roy Orbison and Brenda Lee.
Mr. Elsmo also invented and marketed the "Ed Block Hand Exerciser," named after a longtime Colt trainer, which consisted of a block of malleable putty. Mr. Elsmo's son, Leif Elsmo of Annapolis, said his father and another businessman also tried to market a car cleaner consisting of kerosene mixed with water but gave up the venture when the cans in the first shipment all leaked.
Mr. Elsmo, who learned to play piano at the age of 6, wrote the lyrics to a number of promotional songs about the Colts, the Preakness and Maryland. He set them to marches and other music composed by his brother, Sverre, after his brother's death following a gas leak in his home in Wisconsin.
The songs include "Go, You Fighting Colts," and "The Preakness Song." Mr. Elsmo also wrote songs for the Enchanted Forest amusement park on Route 40 West.
He did promotional work for Republican candidates all over the country, including Spiro T. Agnew when he ran for governor of Maryland.
Outside his family and business ventures, Mr. Elsmo was committed to his work with Alcoholics Anonymous. "Alcoholics Anonymous was a big part of his life," Mrs. Elsmo said. "He spent a great deal of his time with the meetings and helping people."
In November, Mr. Elsmo celebrated 35 years of sobriety with a large crowd of friends at a Baltimore-area restaurant.
Besides his wife and son, Leif, Mr. Elsmo is survived by another son, Kim Elsmo of Gaithersburg, and two daughters, Nina Morrison of Monkton and Gretchen Cook of northern Baltimore County.
The family suggested donations in Mr. Elsmo's name to Alcoholics Anonymous or Hunts Memorial United Methodist Church. Philip Richardson Pierpont, a former Woodlawn service station owner and, later, chief investigator with the Maryland Home Improvement Commission, died Friday of cancer at his home on Tilghman Island. He was 78.
Services for Mr. Pierpont are to be held at 2 p.m. today at the Newnam Funeral Home in Easton.
Mr. Pierpont was born in 1914 in Woodlawn, Baltimore County, and graduated from Catonsville High School. For 40 years, he owned and operated Pierpont's Service Station, a gas station and garage on Windsor Mill Road in Woodlawn.
Mr. Pierpont later worked as a chief investigator with the Maryland Home Improvement Commission of Baltimore until his retirement in 1971.
He and his wife, the former Hellen Gertrude Schmidt, lived in Woodlawn before moving to Tilghman Island 20 years ago.
Mr. Pierpont was a member of the Patmos Lodge No. 70 in Ellicott City. An avid golfer, he also was a longtime member of the Rolling Road Country Club and was actively involved with Harbourtowne Golf Club in St. Michaels.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Pierpont is survived by a daughter, Beverly Pierpont Bluett of Winter Spring, Fla.; a son, Philip Roger Pierpont of Tilghman, Md.; two brothers, Dr. Ross Z. Pierpont of Baltimore and Dr. Edwin L. Pierpont of Finksburg; and two grandchildren.
The family suggests memorial contributions to the Talbot Hospice Foundation, 100 S. Hanson St., Easton, Md. 21601.
Douglas I. Smink
Teacher at McDonogh