Richard Gervais Thayer, a retired Baltimore police officer and Army veteran of World War II, died of lung cancer Friday at University of Maryland Medical Center. The Baltimore resident was 81.
Mr. Thayer and his wife bought their Pigtown home 51 years ago under the GI Bill of Rights. In recent years he filled it with hundreds of clocks - grandfathers, cuckoos, watches - in need of repair, a hobby he picked up during retirement.
He'd repair any clock that was brought to him, including the century-old round clock at St. Jerome Roman Catholic Church on Scott and Hamburg streets.
Born in Richmond, Va., and raised in various parts of Maryland, Mr. Thayer dropped out of high school and joined the Maryland State Guard in 1941. About a month later, after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the son of a Navy veteran enlisted in the Army.
Mr. Thayer served as a medic with the 83rd Infantry Division. He landed on Omaha Beach shortly after D-Day and fought in four major battles, including the Battle of the Bulge and Hurtgen Forest, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star, said his wife, Lois Lorene Thayer, who met her husband at a USO dance.
At the time they met, he was stationed at Camp Breckinridge, Ky., and she was working at a war plant that produced P-47 Thunderbolt fighter planes. After Mr. Thayer left the Army on an honorable discharge in December 1945, he took a train to Indiana and proposed to her at her home. They soon married in Washington.
Shortly thereafter, Mr. Thayer joined the Baltimore Police Department as a patrolman in 1947. He walked the same beat on Pratt Street and Wilkens Avenue for 18 years, his wife said. He retired from the department on his 50th birthday in 1973, and spent the next dozen years as a security guard for a government contractor that made machine parts for the military.
After retiring for good in 1985, he found a new passion: fixing clocks. "He taught himself how to repair antique clocks and watches," said his son, Philip Thayer of Baltimore. Mr. Thayer's home has more than 200 clocks that he collected from flea markets and acquaintances. "He kept his mind busy."
Mr. Thayer would fix them at the kitchen table up until he became gravely ill two months ago.
A funeral date has not been set. Mr. Thayer will be buried in Crownsville Veterans Cemetery in Anne Arundel County, the same resting place as his son, Richard Thayer Jr., who served with the Army during the Vietnam War. His son died in 1997 of heart disease.
In addition to his wife and son Philip, Mr. Thayer is survived by two daughters, Patricia Vukovan and Mary Bowen, both of Baltimore; three grandchildren; and a great-grandson.