Jerome G. Batzer, 92, ship's yard master

January 02, 2004|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

Jerome G. Batzer, a woodworking craftsman, banker and the Pride of Baltimore's one-time yard master, died of pneumonia Monday at Beaverbrook Corner, an assisted-living home in Columbia. He was 92 and suffered from Parkinson's disease.

Mr. Batzer was born in Baltimore, the second son of John C. and Margaret K. Batzer. He attended St. James School on Aisquith Street until the 10th grade, when he left to learn woodworking at a local trade school.

When he turned 15 in 1926, Mr. Batzer landed his first job at Virginia Dare Chocolate Co. on Howard Street in Baltimore. He soon found other jobs, including real estate sales in 1933.

Eight years later, as war swept the world, he volunteered for the Army and was assigned to H Company, 115th Infantry, 29th Division. The decision did not please his then-girlfriend Anita M. Mullin, daughter of City Councilman John T. Mullin Sr. The two had met at St. Ann Roman Catholic Church's dramatic club, where Mr. Batzer acted and helped build stage sets.

In April 1942, he and Anita Mullin were married at St. Ann church. By November, Mr. Batzer was accepted at Officers Candidate School at Aberdeen Proving Ground and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1943. In September of that year, he was assigned to service in Great Britain.

He traveled to England aboard the Queen Mary luxury ocean liner and was stationed in the town of Tidworth with the 609th Armored Vehicle Battalion. His daughter, Anita Scheiwe of Columbia, said he never saw combat.

Shortly after returning to Baltimore in November 1945, he started working at Liberty Federal Savings and Loan Association. He worked his way up, attaining the positions of treasurer and office manager, Mrs. Scheiwe said. He retired as a vice president in 1974.

Three years later, the city began to build the Pride of Baltimore, a replica of the 19th-century Baltimore Clipper topsail schooner.

Mr. Batzer volunteered and worked as the ship's yard master, opening the yard in the morning and closing it at night and recording all activities in between.

"He came by and asked if we needed any help," said Melbourne Smith, the builder of the Pride of Baltimore. "He got there first every morning and opened the gates."

Mr. Smith said Mr. Batzer's "beautifully handwritten journals" still line his bookshelf. He also said Mr. Batzer, 65 at the time, would not hesitate to scour local bars to drag tardy, yet younger and stronger, workers back to the shipyard on many mornings.

Mr. Batzer was easily recognizable throughout downtown by the straw Panama hat he wore as he accompanied out-of-town workers to the city's best lunch spots.

Mr. Batzer, who supplied the silver dollar placed under the mast of the ship, sailed the Philadelphia leg of the ship's maiden voyage.

Peter Boudreau, a carpenter in construction of the ship and the builder of the Pride of Baltimore II years later, remembered Mr. Batzer as a "great guy" who helped him and other workers open checking accounts.

"He was the yard master, the gofer, the gatekeeper, the all-around Mr. Fixit," said Mr. Boudreau. "I was just a kid. Jerry was an old-timer back then."

Mr. Batzer later constructed a detailed model of the Pride of Baltimore using wood from the original ship, a model that Mrs. Scheiwe has today.

He spent most of his free time in the woodworking shop in the basement of his Hillenwood Road home in Northeast Baltimore. His daughter said he excelled at refinishing and reupholstering furniture. He also enjoyed gardening and attending horse races at Pimlico Race Course with his wife. They were annual attendees of the Preakness. His wife died in 1999.

Mr. Batzer was a founding member in 1950 of St. Matthew Roman Catholic Church on Loch Raven Boulevard. He was a member of the American Legion, the Knights of Columbus and the 29th Division Association No. 7.

Services were held Dec. 31 at St. Matthew.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Batzer is survived by three grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

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