William Anthony Beasman Jr., 82, Savings Bank of Baltimore president

May 15, 2002|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

William Anthony Beasman Jr., a former teller who rose to the Savings Bank of Baltimore's presidency and worked to keep local ownership of the Orioles, died Sunday of complications from diabetes and heart disease at Union Memorial Hospital. He was 82 and lived in Northwood.

A business leader, Mr. Beasman started as a teller at the bank at Charles and Baltimore streets in 1947. He retired 41 years later as chairman emeritus. He also was a former director of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland, the Pride of Baltimore Foundation and Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Erdman Avenue, Mr. Beasman was a 1937 graduate of Polytechnic Institute. A foreman at the Glenn L. Martin Co. in Middle River, he supervised aircraft wing construction from 1937 to 1944. He then enlisted in the Army and became a corporal, maintaining tanks during the Italian campaign.

After one year spent studying accounting at the Baltimore College of Commerce -- and a brief stint as a bank teller at Brehm's Building Association -- he joined the Savings Bank of Baltimore. He rose through its ranks -- working as teller, loan and finance officer. He managed the bank's first suburban branch on Park Heights Avenue. He directed consumer credit and mortgage operations before being elected to its presidency in 1975.

"He was totally devoted to Baltimore and never promoted himself," said Christopher Hartman, former mayoral spokesman and a retired public relations executive. "He really loved the city and volunteered quietly. ... He felt he owed a good portion of his time to the city -- and he always delivered. There were a lot of guys in the business community who gave lip service to Baltimore. That wasn't Bill.

"Back in the 1970s, when there was real danger of losing the Orioles to outside ownership, Bill went to his board and proposed buying the Orioles. His board turned him down, and Edwin Bennett Williams later bought the team."

In the late 1970s, when Orioles owner Jerry Hoffberger put the team on the market, Mr. Beasman accepted a request from Mayor William Donald Schaefer to rally the business community to boost game attendance. By mid-September 1979, the effort Mr. Beasman led saw individual ticket sales hit the 1.5 million mark for the season.

"As a bank official, he took the No. 3 Loch Raven Boulevard bus to work," said his son, Bruce Theodore Beasman, who lives in Northeast Baltimore. "He was an unpretentious fellow. He didn't care for the golf course life. He wasn't part of the big social scene. He liked to wear old clothes, maybe something my mother had mended. For years he drove Chevrolets, and only late in life did he buy a Cadillac."

Mr. Beasman began sailing in the Chesapeake Bay in the 1950s and owned eight boats of various types and sizes.

Because of his years of support for the Pride of Baltimore, he held the title of founding admiral. After the topsail schooner sank in 1986, he led an effort to build the Pride of Baltimore II.

"When the tough decision was made to have a second Pride, Bill was always so upbeat, so definite about it," said Gail Shawe, its former executive director.

He served on Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland's board from 1984 to 1992 and stepped in as the health provider's acting president from December 1992 to March 1993.

"Bill came in at a difficult time for the company and really held it together until Bill Jews came on board," said John A. Picciotto, general counsel for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. "He was invaluable to the company. He was a positive man. ... And when he told you something, his word was his bond."

Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Leonard J. Ruck Funeral Home, 5305 Harford Road, Baltimore.

Mr. Beasman is survived by his wife of 58 years, the former Josephine Helen Osenkarski; three other sons, William Anthony Beasman III of Baltimore, Mark David Beasman of Potomac and Lance Vincent Beasman of Baltimore; and seven grandchildren.

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