Robert M. Cameron, 80, executive for Rouse Co.


Robert M. Cameron, a retired Rouse Co. executive and former board member for a program that provides jobs for the disabled, died of complications from diabetes Oct. 28 at a hospital in Hilton Head, S.C. He was 80, and a former Columbia resident.

Mr. Cameron was born and raised in Bryn Mawr, Pa., and after graduating from high school served as a physical education instructor in the Army Air Forces during the last year and a half of World War II.

He then enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania and earned a bachelor's degree in economics from its Wharton School in 1948.

Working for Foley Electrical Contractors in Washington, he became an electrical engineer through on-the-job training, family members said.

Mr. Cameron was recruited by the Rouse Co. to become vice president of construction as it was beginning to build Columbia. Colleagues said he was hard-working and disciplined, and "respected as someone who got the job done, and on time and under budget."

In the early 1970s, Mr. Cameron suffered detached retinas that left him blind, but refused to let the problem end his career as group development director.

"Bob worked with architects and designers who would describe a project verbally which he in turn could visualize mentally and this allowed him to have input," said Anthony W. Deering, former Rouse Co. chief executive and chairman.

"He was an extraordinary guy. He traveled independently all over the country by trains, planes and cabs. He was never hesitant about traveling. He told me the first thing he did after leaving a plane was to grab someone's sleeve and say, `Take me to a cab,' and that only a few had ever turned down his request," Mr. Deering said.

"He decided that blindness would not be a factor in his work. He learned to sense tones in conversations and to make eye contact so that often people meeting him were unaware of his blindness. He never wore dark glasses and people who didn't know him, would often say after a meeting, `Is that guy really blind?'" said Robert Riedy, a friend and retired Rouse senior vice president.

Major projects he was affiliated with included Harborplace, Echelon Town Center in New Jersey and Underground Atlanta.

Mr. Cameron also enjoyed the challenge of working with and training younger staff members.

"He was demanding of himself and of those who worked with him in his hands-on approach to business," Mr. Riedy said.

Mr. Cameron retired in 1990 and moved recently to Hilton Head.

He had been active with and served on the board of the Howard County Workshop, a program that provides jobs for disabled county residents.

Mr. Cameron enjoyed reading, and listened to Books On Tape. He also was an accomplished cook and collected cookbooks.

"He liked to go to football games, which he couldn't see, just to feel the energy of the crowd," said a daughter, Stephanie C. Duncan of Columbia.

He was a member of St. Louis Roman Catholic Church, 12500 Clarksville Pike, Clarksville, where a funeral Mass will be offered at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow.

Survivors also include his wife of 20 years, the former Josephine Petaccio; two other daughters, Carol S. Carmen and Sarah L. Kohlenstein, both of Columbia; two sisters, Betty Anne Mostertz of Sarasota, Fla., and Virginia Cameron of New York City; and six grandchildren. His marriage to June Roper ended in divorce.

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