E.W. Obrecht, executive collected antiquities

October 04, 1994|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writer

Edwin White Obrecht, a retired tobacco company executive and philanthropist, died Sunday of heart failure at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. He was 79.

He retired in 1968 from J. F. Obrecht Tobacco Co., a wholesale tobacco distributor and cigar-maker founded by his grandfather in 1886. He began as a salesman during the Depression.

From 1920 to 1940, the top-selling cigar of the Light Street company was the Pride of Catonsville, later called the Caton. The cigar had a pierced end, and Mr. Obrecht created the cigar's slogan: "Don't Bite Me, Just Lite Me, I've a Hole in My Head."

He had a lifelong interest in American antiquities and had a notable personal collection of clocks, paintings and furniture.

"He was an avid collector but was also very interested in helping museums collect," said Gregory R. Weidman, curator of the Maryland Historical Society.

"In 1986, he donated the funds which enabled us to acquire a nationally known painting by the Anglo-American landscape painter Francis Guy of the slave quarters at Perry Hall, and the other item of standout quality is an 1875 painting, 'On the Chesapeake Bay' by Arthur Quartley, the well-known 19th-century seascape artist."

"It's a real loss to Baltimore," Mike Flanigan, an antiques dealer who had known Mr. Obrecht for 10 years, said of his death.

"His own specialized field was watch holders, and he was known all over the world for that," Mr. Flanigan said. "If you bumped into someone and they found out you were from Baltimore, they'd always ask, 'Do you know Ned Obrecht?' "

Mr. Obrecht was seldom without his finely rolled and brushed gray or black hat. He was a fixture at many area cultural events and parties.

He was "the antithesis of the stuffy collector. He was delightful to work with and had a good sense of humor," Ms. Weidman said.

Born and reared in Roland Park, Mr. Obrecht graduated from City College in 1933 and attended the Johns Hopkins University, where he had planned to study medicine but which he left to join the family business.

He lived for many years on Circle Road in Ruxton, then, in recent years at the Warrington Condominiums. He spent winters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

He was a member of the board of the Friends of the American Wing of the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Maryland Historical Society, the Hammond-Harwood House, the Ladew Topiary Gardens, St. Paul's School for Girls and Boys' Latin School.

He was also a member of the Maryland Club, L'Hirondelle Club, the Baltimore Country Club, the Green Spring Valley Hunt Club, the Johns Hopkins University Club and the Society of Colonial Wars.

His wife, the former Doris Laura Merle, whom he married in 1943, died in 1973.

The family will receive friends from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. today at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Boyce and Carrollton avenues, Ruxton, where he was a communicant. A memorial service is set for 10 a.m. tomorrow at the church.

Survivors include two sons, Edwin W. Obrecht Jr. and Andrew M. Obrecht; a daughter, Merle Obrecht Peace; a brother, Donald F. Obrecht; and nine grandchildren. All are of Baltimore.

Memorial donations may be made to the Maryland Historical Society, 201 W. Monument St., Baltimore 21201.

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