Melvin C. Neuman, 84, grocer and 40-year volunteer fireman

September 16, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Melvin C. Neuman, former owner of a Baltimore neighborhood grocery store and a longtime member of the Kingsville Volunteer Fire Company, died Wednesday of kidney failure at St. Joseph Medical Center. He was 84.

A resident of Oak Crest Village retirement community, he was born in Baltimore and raised above his parents' Oliver Street grocery store, where he learned the grocery business firsthand.

Mr. Neuman attended city public schools and, with the outbreak of World War II, tried enlisting in the Army.

"He couldn't pass the physical because he had suffered from rheumatic fever as a child, which left him with a bad heart. So, he went to work for the B&O in the Riverside Roundhouse repairing steam engines," said his son-in-law, Edward C. Tochterman of Kingsville.

In the late 1940s, Mr. Neuman opened Neuman's Delicatessen and Confectionery, a corner grocery store on Elmley Avenue in Northeast Baltimore.

"He sold canned goods, custom-cut meat and was one of the first to sell frozen foods when they came in during the 1950s. He really sold everything from needles to toys and was always very accommodating to his customers," Mr. Tochterman said.

Mr. Neuman and his wife operated the store seven days a week, said family members.

"It got to be such a grind that he sold the store in 1957 and worked three days a week for a relative who had a store near Fort Howard," said his son-in-law.

Mr. Neuman later worked for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland in the mailroom of their former headquarters on East Joppa Road in Towson. He retired in the mid-1990s.

"His work ethic would put most people to shame," Mr. Tochterman said.

A resident of the Parkville retirement community since 1997, Mr. Neuman had lived in Kingsville for 40 years.

He was a member of the Kingsville Volunteer Fire Company for 40 years until going on the inactive roster in 1998.

"When Mel joined in 1959, the company was only 5 years old, and he played a very important role there for many years," said Douglas Maynard, a longtime volunteer firefighter and the company's unofficial historian.

"In addition to riding the engines, he was our sergeant-at-arms for 31 years. In that position, he greeted new members, kept order at meetings and was responsible for clothing and badges," he said.

"He did whatever you asked him, even if it meant cleaning the toilets. He was such a character and loved kidding around," Mr. Maynard said.

Funeral services were to be held Saturday at Lassahn Funeral Home in Kingsville.

Afterward, his casket was to be carried atop Engine No. 482, a red-and-white pumper, to Salem United Methodist Church cemetery in Upper Falls, where it was to be interred.

Mr. Neuman was the third member of the Kingsville Volunteer Fire Company to be so honored.

"He was so involved in the company for 40 years, and if anyone deserved it, it was Mel," Mr. Maynard said.

"He loved the fire service," Mr. Tochterman said.

Mr. Neuman enjoyed German cuisine, family members said.

He is survived by his wife of 63 years, the former Catherine L. Young; a daughter, Joan C. Tochterman of Kingsville; a grandson; and several cousins.

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