J. Wilbur Freyman, 86, rose to top at Baltimore Equitable

November 01, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

J. Wilbur Freyman, who rose from clerk to CEO and treasurer of the venerable Baltimore Equitable Society, died Oct. 23 of cancer at Stella Maris Hospice. The Milford resident was 86.

In 1928, he began his career with Baltimore Equitable, which was founded in 1794 and is the oldest corporation in Maryland and the nation's fourth-oldest insurer.

Known as "the Society," the firm's distinctive metal fire mark -- two clasped hands over the date 1794 -- is displayed on the outsides of houses and businesses it insures and is a familiar sight to Marylanders.

The company has been in a two-story, 1857 brick and brownstone building at the southeast corner of Eutaw and Fayette streets since 1889.

Founded as a mutual organization to provide fire insurance for Baltimoreans, its hallmark perpetual policy is issued upon receipt of a first payment, which is also the last and is returnable even after a fire or if the owner wishes to withdraw for any other reason.

Mr. Freyman, whose office was lined with antique fire emblems and dark-hued, stern portraits of earlier treasurers, told The Sun in 1973, "I came here in 1928 and remember the noise from the streetcars on Fayette and Eutaw streets, and the business has operated the way it always has."

Asked about changes, he replied, "Changes? Well, there really haven't been many." He did, however, mention air conditioning as one change he had seen in his long career.

He was appointed chief executive officer in 1965 and retired in 1976. He remained on the board until the early 1980s.

A conservative man who favored dark suits and was known for punctuality, Mr. Freyman was described by Stephen Bernhardt, president of the firm, as "an easygoing person who really personified the virtues of the Society."

He said Mr. Freyman was "well-liked by customers and employees alike. He was a very kind man who quietly went about his work each day."

Born and raised in Westminster, Mr. Freyman graduated from Westminster High School and the Baltimore Business College.

He was a member of Mount Olive United Methodist Church and Palestine Lodge No. 189 A.F. & A.M. in Catonsville, where he played the organ.

Services were held Saturday.

He is survived by his wife of 60 years, the former Margaret Ditman; a son, J. Gary Freyman of Las Vegas; a daughter, Nancy S. Freyman of Baltimore; and a granddaughter.

Pub Date: 11/01/96

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