Alfred H. Drummond Jr., SSA official, 76

April 03, 2005|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Alfred Hall Drummond Jr., a retired Social Security Administration personnel director who composed dozens of New York Times and Sun crossword puzzles, died of a heart attack March 27 at Memorial Hospital of Salem County in Salem, N.J. The former Timonium resident was 76.

Born in Allentown, Pa., Mr. Drummond sang bass with the Bethlehem Bach Choir during high school. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia, where he was a member of the Raven Society. He studied at the Wharton School of Finance in Philadelphia before serving in the Air Force during the Korean War.

He moved to Baltimore in 1956 and joined the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's personnel staff. In a few years, he went into the same field at the Social Security Administration and rose to become the director of personnel services at the Woodlawn headquarters.

"He had to sign off on everyone who was hired or fired there," said his son, David D. Drummond of Manchester.

In 1987, he received a Commissioner's Citation for his management of personnel programs nationwide. He retired shortly thereafter.

Beginning in the 1950s, Mr. Drummond took what had been a hobby -- assembling crossword puzzles on vacations -- and began selling them to newspapers. His puzzles often had themes employing family names and references to the Air Force Academy and the University of Virginia, places that had figured in his life. It took him between three and 25 hours to make each puzzle, which he sold for $10 for a daily newspaper puzzle and $25 for a larger Sunday puzzle.

"He developed a good relationship with Margaret Farrar," his son said of the longtime Times crossword puzzle editor known for her many books of collected puzzles.

A 1959 Sun feature story described Mr. Drummond as "a studious Baltimorean who looks like a clean-cut sergeant in a training film." The article said he called himself "the world's worst speller" and had to discard two completed puzzles because he had misspelled "Rodgers and Hart" and "liaison."

"A good puzzle should offer certain challenges, but an average man or woman should be able to work it in 20 or 30 minutes while riding to or from work on a street car. Without a dictionary, of course," he said in the article.

He said he never used unhappy words or the names of serious diseases. The book he most often consulted was a fat, loose-leaf binder he assembled with thousands of words, all arranged by the number of letters. He jotted down good puzzle words while walking, at restaurants and at work and home.

"He would go into the basement at night and play a recording of Bach or Mahler and make his puzzles," his son said.

Mr. Drummond read extensively and had a large personal library, much of which he donated to the Smith College used-book sale.

He and his wife of more than 50 years, the former Annette Grainger, who taught at Woodbourne and Cockeysville junior high schools and Ridgely Middle School, were avid bird-watchers and members of the Baltimore Bird Club. Mrs. Drummond died in 2001.

On Valentine's Day 2003, he married a former high school classmate, Naomi Knauss LaBastille, an attorney and New Jersey administrative law judge. He then left Timonium and moved to Pilesgrove, N.J.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Havenwood Presbyterian Church, 100 East Ridgely Road, Timonium.

In addition to his wife and son, survivors include another son, William J. Drummond of Atlanta; and a grandson.

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