Hyman Pressman is buried amid tributes State, local officials and average citizens pay their respects

March 18, 1996|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Hyman Aaron Pressman, the tightfisted guardian of the municipal treasury for nearly three decades, was buried yesterday amid fond farewells to his style, honesty and yes, even his poetry.

More than 500 people gathered at Sol Levinson & Bros. Inc. funeral home in Northwest Baltimore to bid farewell to Mr. Pressman, 81, who was city comptroller from 1963 until 1991. Mr. Pressman died Friday of Alzheimer's disease at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital.

The chapel at the funeral home at 6010 Reisterstown Road was packed with former mayors, state and city officials, U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes and many members of Shaarei Zion Congregation, where Mr. Pressman worshiped for 50 years. Also attending were the average citizens, who loved the former comptroller's fiscal frugality, zany antics and the many poems he wrote about Baltimore.

"To say he was one in a million would be an understatement," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, an honorary pallbearer. "He had a wonderful zest for life; he kept us on our toes."

Many who attended found another irony services for Mr. Pressman began just after the conclusion of the city's St. Patrick's Day parade, an event in which he marched until only a few years ago, when his health began to fail.

"He would be marching, dancing in that parade," said former council President Mary Pat Clarke. "Other pols rode in cars, Hymie marched. He kept his heart and feet with the people."

Richard A. Lidinsky, Mr. Pressman's deputy for nearly a quarter century, said, "The fact he was buried on St. Patrick's Day is certainly an ironic coincidence."

Erwin A. Burtnick, who worked for Mr. Pressman for 25 years in City Hall, agreed: "Yes, his timing was perfect. The St. Patrick's Day parade downtown was just ending as the funeral was starting."

Former Mayor Thomas A. D'Alesandro III said the time that Mr. Pressman emerged as a political figure and character he first ran for political office in 1938 "is a lost era. Hymie roamed in a different climate his poetry, his antics, his watchdog tactics. I'm not sure his style would be appreciated today."

But, Mr. D'Alesandro said, beneath the zaniness "was a strong work ethic, he always made a solid contribution and that's why I had a good relationship with him."

While Mr. Pressman was a highly regarded gadfly and protector of the public purse, he also had an obstructionist side.

"Baltimore would probably have had a domed stadium on the present site of Oriole Park at Camden Yards as early as 1972 if Mr. Pressman hadn't threatened to petition it to referendum," said Frank A. DeFilippo, former press secretary to Gov. Marvin Mandel.

"While he was a champion of the underdog, he occasionally took the short view instead of the long view," Mr. DeFilippo said.

One of Mr. Pressman's closest companions in his last years was Eddie Walston, another honorary pallbearer, who was the comptroller's official driver and generally tended to most of his essential needs.

"He told me he really appreciated me," said Mr. Walston, who worked for 31 years in the city government tire shop and came out of retirement to work for Mr. Pressman.

"Those last years were tough for him," Mr. Walston said. "His mind wandered at the end, but he was real pleasant to me. He trusted me. I really did enjoy him."

After the service, Mr. Pressman was buried in Shaarei Zion Congregation Cemetery in Rosedale.

He is survived by his wife, the former Annabelle Komitzsky; a daughter, Shula Stark of Baltimore; a son, Lester Saul Pressman of Bene Brak, Israel; a brother, Albert I. Pressman of Pikesville; and seven grandchildren.

Pub Date: 3/18/96

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