Calvin Baumgartner, 90, survivor of merchant ship sinking in WWII

May 29, 2004|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Calvin R. Baumgartner, a survivor of the last U.S.-flagged merchant marine ship torpedoed by a German submarine and who later hauled grain on the Chesapeake Bay, died Sunday of stroke complications at the Keswick Multi-Care Center. The Hampden resident was 90.

Born in Overlea, he attended City College. While there, he was a Western Union messenger boy, delivering telegrams in the evenings to help support his family.

His studies at St. John's College in Annapolis were interrupted by World War II. Mr. Baumgertner joined the merchant marine and sailed on four ships before he was assigned to the S.S. Black Point in April 1945.

On May 5, 1945, the Black Point was torpedoed by a German submarine near Rhode Island's Point Judith lighthouse. It was the last U.S.-flagged merchant ship sunk by a German submarine. Thirty-four crew members were rescued, but 12 died.

"He was treading water, waiting to be picked up," said his daughter, Calvina "Kelly" Baumgartner-Pease of Baltimore, who added that her father was proud to have served in the merchant marine. "He felt World War II was America's finest hour and the most outstanding event of his life. He was so proud of how the country came together and the troops rallied."

After the war, Mr. Baumgartner managed an apartment complex in Ashburton for the S.L. Hammerman Co. He later worked converting coal furnaces to natural gas.

In the later 1950s, he started a Chesapeake Bay grain hauling company, buying an old tugboat and an old sidewheel steamboat, the B.S. Ford, which had been converted to a barge. With a partner, he hauled grain from Norfolk to Baltimore until his barge sank in 1960.

Mr. Baumgartner's later jobs included caretaker at Grindon Avenue's Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery and owner of the Bateman Guest Home, a Taylor Avenue convalescent home. He retired in 1980 as a stationary engineer at Maryland Training School for Boys (now the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School).

He enjoyed astronomy and gardening.

Mr. Baumgartner outlived two wives. His first wife, Dorothea Beall, died in 1971. His second wife, Violetta S. Bateman, died in 1996.

A memorial service is set for 3 p.m. Wednesday at St. Mary's Episcopal Outreach Center, 3900 Roland Ave. in Hampden.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include a son, Creston Baumgartner of Baynesville, and another daughter, Catherine Baumgartner of Kingsville. A son, Richard Baumgartner, died in 1970 after returning from duty in Vietnam.

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