Memorial to Sen. Kittleman transcends partisan politics

Kittleman memorial transcends politics

Memorial service for Sen. Kittleman transcends politics

Family, friends recount humble man of hard work

Howard County

September 22, 2004|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

About 1,000 people crowded into Glenelg High School in western Howard County last night to say farewell to state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman, the humble dynamo who fought racism, helped build a vibrant local Republican Party and still rose before dawn to tend cattle on his West Friendship farm.

"Who else could bring Mike Miller and Ellen Sauerbrey together but Bob Kittleman?" Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said, bringing laughs.

Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat who is the Senate president, and Ms. Sauerbrey, a former GOP legislator and gubernatorial candidate, attended the service - part of a bipartisan turnout that included numerous Howard County politicians as well as family and friends.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in some editions yesterday about the memorial service for state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman incorrectly identified two surviving family members. They are his step-daughters.
The Sun regrets the error.

"If he had an ego, it was not discernible," Ms. Sauerbrey said of Mr. Kittleman in her turn at the podium.

Mr. Kittleman, 78, died Sept. 11 after battling leukemia for most of this year.

A legislator for 22 years, Mr. Kittleman was praised as an inveterate optimist, a determined coach and teacher, always working hard, if quietly, whether at home paying his grandchildren to practice clarinet or in his political life.

Mr. Ehrlich and others fondly recalled his irrepressible personality that showed up in ways as varied as his belief in sign-waving on county roads as a campaign tactic, to birthing calves or quizzing his grandchildren on schoolwork.

He was known in Annapolis for his integrity - never letting a lobbyist pay his way - and friendliness, despite years of scorn and indifference as a leader of the once-tiny Republican minority in the General Assembly.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan, who was a fellow Howard delegate for 16 years, said a section of Route 32, from Route 108 to Liberty Road, will be dedicated to Mr. Kittleman. Both worked for years to get the western county highway expanded from two to four lanes - a controversial plan approved recently by the Ehrlich administration.

But his family remembered his endearing personal qualities.

"Love each other, work hard, trust each other, be happy when others succeed" was his near-final admonition as he lay dying with his family around him, said Howard County Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, the senator's son.

Haley Kittleman, one of 10 grandchildren, recalled how he taught her how to play clarinet - even accompanying her in a recital - and how to make a layup in basketball.

"He made me do layups over and over again until I made every one," she said.

Daughter Laura Kittleman Yeatts told how, on a Caribbean vacation, he spied an island and challenged her to swim to it with him. "He was always like that, ready to take on any challenge and eager to keep moving," she said in prepared remarks.

Days before his death, Mr. Kittleman was working on a legislative brochure for constituents with Del. Susan W. Krebs, who represents the third of his 9th Legislative District that lies in Carroll County. She suggested not including his home phone number on the literature to spare the ill senator calls. He insisted he wanted those calls because he liked talking to people.

"He left us a vibrant contributor," Ms. Krebs said.

Born in Omaha, Neb., Mr. Kittleman served in the Navy during World War II, studied engineering at the University of Oklahoma, and came to Maryland in 1956, where he worked 26 years for Westinghouse before retiring in 1984.

When he arrived in rural Howard County, Mr. Kittleman found the political opposite of the Republican dominance he was used to in Iowa, where he was raised. That led him to Howard's African-American Republicans, and he championed civil rights as the first white member of the local NAACP.

Mr. Kittleman ran unsuccessfully for County Council in 1978, then won a seat in the House of Delegates in 1982. He was the first Republican elected in the county in 62 years. He moved to the state Senate in early 2002 to fill a vacancy, and won a full term after running unopposed later that year.

After Mr. Ehrlich's election, Mr. Kittleman was reluctant to consider retirement, he said, because after years of representing an impotent minority, he finally had a Republican governor to work with.

His illness tempered that joy, however, and finally robbed him of his seemingly indestructible stamina.

He is also survived by his wife, Trent Kittleman; another son, Cody Kittleman; and two step-grandchildren.

Sun staff writer Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.

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