Donald E. Grempler, 72, co-owner of real estate company, combat pilot

March 02, 2001|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Donald E. Grempler, an owner of the real estate company that bore his name, died Wednesday of complications from pneumonia and leukemia at St. Joseph Medical Center. He was 72 and lived in the Worthington Valley in Baltimore County.

Grempler Realty Inc., which he and his wife operated from the 1960s until they sold it last year, once was Maryland's busiest. In the 1970s, the Grempler "For Sale" sign was on approximately 15 percent of homes sold in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

"He brought the real estate world in Baltimore into the modern times," said R. Dennis German, director of commercial services for O'Conor, Piper & Flynn ERA, a real estate firm. "He created the first system in the real estate world to computerize records of properties available for sale. To this day, Donald's systems, computer programs and procedures are unsurpassed."

The Evening Sun reported in 1980: "The Gremplers rule the state's largest real estate empire."

That year, Mr. Grempler was an officer of Grempler Realty, D. E. Grempler Insurance Co., Freestate Mortgage Co. Inc., Title Co. of Maryland, and Data Base Management Inc.

He was recalled as someone who preferred to work with technology rather than sell homes. During the 1960s, he programmed a Mark V computer to scan 1,000 house listings a minute and sort them by price, location, style and size. He also franchised his technology under the name ASK International Computerized Systems.

"He was one of the innovators in computers," said Richard J. Roszel of Roland Park, an agent with O'Conor, Piper & Flynn. "He was a quiet guy, behind the scenes, but who made all the engines roar."

Trained as an pilot - he flew 87 combat missions for the Air Force during the Korean War - Mr. Grempler was attracted to the technical aspects of aircraft because he could not read well. He suffered from severe dyslexia in childhood, at a time when educators had not identified or devised ways to work with the condition.

After the Korean War, Mr. Grempler became a Trans-Texas Airlines pilot, then joined the Bendix Radio Corp. as director of flight research. He tested Bendix-made instruments on aircraft and made a clock used by John Glenn when Glenn was an astronaut.

In 1954, Mr. Grempler married Mary Bell Hamilton, who began selling homes in Baltimore in the mid-1950s. In 1960, she formed Donald E. Grempler Realty, which he joined full time in the early 1960s.

After many years as a successful husband-and-wife partnership, the couple divorced in 1983. But they continued their business dealings until the firm was sold to Long & Foster Real Estate in September.

Born in Baltimore, Mr. Grempler was raised in Forest Park and graduated from Polytechnic Institute.

In 1971, he was named president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.

In 1992, he married Joan Kenney, who survives him.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Towson United Methodist Church, 501 Hampton Lane.

He also is survived by two sons, Donald R. Grempler of Carney and James L. Grempler of White Marsh; a brother, Vernon Grempler of Culpeper, Va.; and 11 grandchildren.

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