Sydney Blumenthal, 82, CEO of electrical firm

January 31, 1999|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Sydney C. Blumenthal Jr., chief executive officer of the Blumenthal-Kahn Electric Co. Inc. and local philanthropist, died of cancer Thursday at the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson. He was 82.

The longtime Pikesville resident had been CEO of the company for 37 years. One of the oldest electrical contracting firms in the nation, it was founded by his father, Sydney C. Blumenthal Sr., with partner Abraham Kahn in 1909.

The company, now based in Owings Mills, was in the Blumenthal-Kahn Building at Liberty and Lombard streets until the early 1960s, when the building was demolished to make way for the Baltimore Arena.

FOR THE RECORD - Sydney C. Blumenthal Jr.: An obituary published Sunday for Sydney C. Blumenthal Jr., chief executive officer of Blumenthal-Kahn Electric Co. Inc. and a philanthropist, incorrectly stated the name of his high school. Mr. Blumenthal, 82, who died Thursday of cancer, was a graduate of Polytechnic Institute. The Sun regrets the error.

"In those early years, the company was converting houses and businesses in Baltimore from gaslights to electricity," said son John Blumenthal of Owings Mills, who is succeeding his father as CEO.

"We've done it all from doorbells to power plants, bridges, hospitals and airports," he said.

Born and raised in Mount Washington, Mr. Blumenthal was a 1933 graduate of City College. He earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the Johns Hopkins University School of Engineering in 1937, and during World War II served with the Navy Seabees constructing airfields in the South Pacific.

He was discharged at war's end with the rank of lieutenant, and his decorations included the Bronze Star. Then Mr. Blumenthal returned to the business -- expanding with the postwar construction boom in Maryland.

Projects with which he was associated included building the original Bay Bridge, Martin State Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Others included the World Trade Center, Sinai Hospital, Aberdeen Proving Ground, and conversion of the Camden Yards warehouse building into offices for the Baltimore Orioles.

"What he liked best about the business was that it gave him access to dynamic people, and for years he did business with simply a handshake," said his son.

He was active in numerous professional organizations, and, with an interest in the education of engineering students, established the Sydney C. and Mitzi Blumenthal Lecture Series, with an annual program at the Hopkins School of Engineering.

"He helped pioneer the exposure of engineering students and faculty to extraordinary examples of business leadership which created an opportunity to enrich the engineering educational environment at Hopkins," said Bill Dean, a university spokesman.

His philanthropic interests also included the Baltimore Museum of Art, Sinai Hospital and Temple Oheb Shalom Congregation, where he had been president and a member of its board.

He was an avid Chesapeake Bay fisherman and enjoyed spending time at a family home he maintained at Arcadia-on-the-Bay in Anne Arundel County.

Something of a raconteur, Mr. Blumenthal was gifted with an easy laugh. Shortly before his death, he advised his son, "I want to be carried out by my banker, bonding agent and lawyer because they helped carry me through life," John Blumenthal said.

Services will be held at 1 p.m. today at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife, the former Mitzi Prager, whom he married in 1974; a daughter, Maureen Blumenthal of Mill Valley, Calif.; four granddaughters; three stepsons, Gordon Prager and Charles Prager, both of London, and Wayne Prager of Denmark; and two step-grandsons.

Memorial donations may be made to the Sydney C. and Mitzi Blumenthal Lecture Series, the Johns Hopkins University School of Engineering, 3211 N. Charles St., Baltimore 21218.

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