William J. Bocklage, 90, night news foreman in composing room of The Sun

February 10, 2002|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

William J. Bocklage, a retired Sun composing room night news foreman, died Friday of pneumonia at Citizens Care Center in Havre de Grace, where he moved eight years ago. He was 90 and earlier had lived in Gardenville and Waverly.

He joined The Sun's printing staff as a floor boy in 1927, when the paper's office was at Baltimore and Charles streets. He rose through the ranks -- apprentice, journeyman, assistant news foreman and news foreman. He retired Dec. 20, 1978.

"He would scare you to death when you first met him," said John Plunkett, retired Sun assistant managing editor. "He was a perfectionist. You would respect him like a top sergeant. He could lose his temper at people he found inadequate, but he could -- at deadline -- set a line of type faster than anybody I've ever seen. ... And he so enjoyed his work."

Because of Mr. Bocklage's speed and efficiency, he was given the job of making up the local news page, traditionally the section of the paper that received late-breaking news stories. Working in the early hours of the morning -- and with metal type -- Mr. Bocklage often furiously added new lines of type, evened up columns and tamped down the metal forms.

"As news foreman he made sure all the news stories -- and the ads -- got in the pages," said Hugh Meadowcroft, retired Sun composing room superintendent. "He was fast, deliberate and articulate. He used his education well."

"He was the man you went to if you had problems with a late story," said retired Sun football reporter Cameron Snyder. "If the type was setting slow, he'd hustle someone along. He really ran the place."

"He was a conscientious person, helpful to the whole staff," said James A. Hartzell, a retired Sun artist.

Friends said that after he had completed his work on the Sunday Sun, he went to St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church in Oldtown, where he was the altar boy at the traditional printers' Mass.

"He worked that job just like he did the composing room," Mr. Plunkett said. "He knew all the Latin."

Born in Baltimore and raised in Canton, he was a graduate of St. Brigid's Parochial School and attended Loyola High School. During World War II he served in the Army as a captain in the Signal Corps.

He was a trustee and charter member of the Baltimore Sun Retirees Association.

He enjoyed sports -- as a young man he played softball and soccer in Patterson Park amateur leagues -- and had season tickets to the Baltimore Colts from the team's inception to its departure for Indianapolis. He played in Clifton Park and Mount Pleasant golf tournaments. In 1941, he was part of a Union Printcraft Golf Association match at St. Louis.

In 1946, he married Faye Jenkins. She died in 1991.

A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church, Congress Avenue and Stokes Street, Havre de Grace.

He is survived by a daughter, Mary Callahan of Havre de Grace; two sisters, Mary C. Bocklage and Rita M. Fiddes, both of Baltimore; and a grandson.

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