Oscar Omar Nelms, 60, welder, gravedigger and truck driver

January 14, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Oscar Omar Nelms, a former truck driver, gravedigger and welder at Bethlehem Steel Corp., died Saturday of heart failure at his Northwest Baltimore home. He was 60.

For some years, Mr. Nelms nurtured a dream of mass marketing his "No Holds" barbecue sauce, which he worked on in his spare time and sold mostly to friends and relatives. The highly seasoned blend was packaged in a bright orange wrapper and warned users of its heat.

"It was only fair that he told people before they used it because it could literally blow your mouth off," said a cousin, Wanda Robinson of Baltimore.

Beginning in the mid-1960s until last year, Mr. Nelms made the sauce in the basement kitchen of his residence on Oakley Avenue in Pimlico, the pungent aroma wafting through the neighborhood.

"He never realized -- or at least had a hard time understanding -- that not everyone wanted to breathe fire," said William Romes, a longtime friend and neighbor. "He always felt that the hotter, the better."

Ms. Robinson added, "I think everyone wants to be the best at something or do something no one else can do better. He wanted his barbecue sauce to take off. It never did."

A native of Rocky Mount, N.C., Mr. Nelms served in the Army from 1956 to 1960. After he was discharged, he worked briefly for a trucking company in Frederick before becoming a gravedigger in Howard County from 1965 to 1969. He was a welder at Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point plant from 1981 to 1995.

He worked as a gravedigger before backhoes were used.

"He'd have blisters and sores all over his hands, but he didn't care," Ms. Robinson said. "He was one of those old-time people who believed in doing and getting paid for a hard day's work."

Mr. Nelms would dig two or three graves, then go home and tinker, trying to come up with a better hamburger or ice cream.

"There was nothing that he wouldn't see and try to make better, try to put his signature on a more special way of doing it," said Fran Wennington, his longtime companion. "You can't blame a man for trying. He did that."

A memorial service is planned for this month.

Mr. Nelms also is survived by a son, Omar Nelms of Fairfax, Va.; and two grandchildren.

Pub Date: 1/14/98

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