Douglas V. Dorman, 89, headed labor relations

October 18, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Douglas V. Dorman, who headed labor relations for Martin Marietta Corp., died Tuesday of pneumonia at Edenwald retirement community, where he had lived for nearly 13 years. The former Lutherville resident was 89.

Born in Tarrytown, N.Y., he attended public schools in New York and New Jersey, and began work as a clerk at the New York Life Insurance Co.

Family members said he had ambitions of becoming an aircraft pilot and applied to the Army Air Corps but was rejected because he was 6 feet 5 inches tall, too tall for the cockpits of World War II-era military planes.

He moved to Maryland and joined the Glenn L. Martin Co. aircraft manufacturer in Middle River, becoming a manager and, later, director of its wage and salary division. He became director of industrial relations at its Denver plant in 1960 and returned to Baltimore a year later as corporate vice president of industrial relations. He held that post with the company that became Martin Marietta until he retired in 1980, when he set up a management consulting business.

"[Labor leader] Walter Reuther once told my father his handshake was like a signed contract. His word was his bond. He was honest," said his daughter, Dorothy L. Dorman of Lutherville. "He was a man who honestly enjoyed people. He had a wonderful sense of humor. You never saw him without a smile."

During his career, he negotiated 76 labor agreements with 21 different unions.

"The unions respected him," said Melvin T. Ruth, a retired Martin Marietta plant manager. "He was a courteous person who was helpful. He considered all the workers to be human beings first."

After living in Lutherville for many years, Mr. Dorman moved to Edenwald in Towson, where he was elected president of the residents association. He also assisted the retirement community's management and appeared before Maryland legislative committee hearings in Annapolis.

"He was respectful of his fellow man," said Sal Molite Jr., Edenwald's president. "He had the ability to speak to upper-level management and lower-level staff all the same in manner. His manner had strength, and he could bring consensus to a room when there had been disagreement.

"When there were issues in Annapolis that affected the retirement communities, he assisted me," Mr. Molite said. "He would sit next to me at finance committee and do as much as he could."

Mr. Dorman was also instrumental in setting up a fund in which the retirement community residents would contribute to the Edenwald employees at Christmas. He also set up a similar fund to help employees advance their education.

Mr. Dorman had a woodworking shop in his home and made a grandfather clock, coffee tables and cabinets. He also kept a flower garden.

Services were held yesterday.

Survivors include his wife of 65 years, the former Jane Strasburger; another daughter, Elizabeth D. Waters of Bradenton, Fla.; two grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

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