Reginald Calvert Orem, 89, an opera buff, bibliophile, weekly newspaper editor

October 08, 1997|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Reginald Calvert Orem, a retired Cambridge newspaper editor, bon vivant, bibliophile and opera buff, died Sunday at Dorchester General Hospital of heart failure. He was 89.

Known as a man of refined tastes and charm who regularly indulged his passion for the printed word, he was known for his daily visits to the Dorchester County Public Library.

The rhythmic tapping of his walking stick could be heard striking the ancient red bricks of High Street, the oldest street in Cambridge, as he made his regular midmorning passage to the library.

Once there and seated in a comfortable chair, he would read the newspapers first, and then spend hours and often the rest of the day immersing himself in books on music, fine art and literature.

"He seemed to represent a group of people we don't see much of anymore," said Mary T. Handley, a librarian and friend of 15 years.

"He treasured literature and language and willingly shared it. He'd recite poems in Old English or foreign languages from memory. It was amazing."

Ms. Handley also recalled the generous bouquets of flowers that he brought staffers from the garden of his High Street home.

"If anyone tried to use an adjective as an adverb, he would instantly correct them," said Oliver Gore, a son-in-law, laughing.

A handsome man of medium build with heavy-lidded porcelain blue eyes, he was easily recognizable by the floppy, shapeless tweed hat that he wore in cool weather and the sporty poplin cap he wore in summer.

Mr. Orem lived in a clapboard house, reportedly the second oldest house in Cambridge, that dates to 1798 and was once the residence of Josiah Bailey, an early Maryland attorney general.

When he wasn't at the public library, Mr. Orem enjoyed sitting in the library of his home before a fire reading and listening to Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera, which he carefully followed from his extensive collection of librettos.

"He was somewhat of a local character," said Edward H. Nabb, a Cambridge attorney and friend for 65 years. "He was from an old family, and old families tend to produce characters.

"He had a strange way of walking which we called the Reg Orem Walk. He'd spring up on his toes before he took the next step with his head spinning from right to left talking to everyone he encountered. He didn't want to miss talking to anyone."

Born and raised in Cambridge, Mr. Orem was a graduate of high school there and earned his bachelor's degree in 1928 from St. John's College in Annapolis.

After moving to Parkville and working as a supervisor for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., he returned to Cambridge in 1946 to become editor of the Democrat and News, a weekly paper that was owned and published by his father, Earle W. Orem, who had been mayor of Cambridge from 1916 to 1932.

After the death of his father, he took over the paper that had been founded in 1828.

After selling the paper, which is today the Dorchester Star, in 1961, he joined the Cambridge Urban Renewal Project, where he was an administrator. He retired in 1964.

An avid sailor and boat builder, Mr. Orem spent hours carefully fashioning sailboats in the back yard of his home.

He was married 59 years to the former Hazel Robinson, who died in 1989.

He was a member of the Dorchester County Historical Society, the Cambridge Yacht Club and the Rescue Fire Company.

He was a communicant, vestryman and registrar of Christ Episcopal Church on High Street in Cambridge, where services will be held at 2: 30 p.m. tomorrow.

He is survived by two sons, Reginald C. Orem Jr. of College Park and Creighton R. Orem of East New Market; three daughters, Regina Kintner of Ocean City, Hazel Earley of Indiana, Pa., and Leah Gore of Cambridge; 16 grandchildren; 23 great-grandchildren; and two nephews.

Pub Date: 10/08/97

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