Paul Richard Kratzer, 58, advertising agency owner


Paul Richard Kratzer, an advertising agency owner known for his offbeat ideas and enthusiastic support of the Salisbury Zoo, died Wednesday at Johns Hopkins Hospital of complications after heart surgery. He was 58.

Mr. Kratzer's name appeared briefly in the national media in late 1990 after he developed the IraqiWacker, a wooden paddle-ball toy that featured a caricature of Saddam Hussein's face.

He donated 1,000 toys to U.S. troops massed in Saudi Arabia. "If nothing else, these IraqiWackers will sharpen our troops' eye-hand coordination and relieve the boredom," Mr. Kratzer quipped in a Dec. 1990 article in The Sun.

The BushWacker, a similar toy with a picture of President George H.W. Bush, garnered less attention. "He was making a bit of a political statement," said his daughter, Jessica Phillips of London. Mr. Kratzer also made a paddle that featured then-Vice President Dan Quayle.

In Salisbury, where Mr. Kratzer lived for the past three decades, he was best known as the longest-serving and most-visible member of Friends of the Salisbury Zoo.

Always brimming with new promotional ideas, Mr. Kratzer pushed to bring a touring display of moving dinosaurs to the city for a summer in the late 1980s. The hope was that vacationers driving to Ocean City would pay to bring their children to see the exhibit. The proceeds were to go to the zoo.

"The Friends of the Zoo weren't real excited about it, so he started his own nonprofit called `The Close Personal Friends of the Zoo,'" said Jim Rapp, director of the Salisbury Zoo.

The dinosaur display wasn't the financial hit Mr. Kratzer envisioned, but Mr. Rapp said those who built volcanoes and laid out mulch for the project had fond memories.

"Maybe Salisbury at the time wasn't ready for it," Mr. Rapp said. "What he brought to the zoo was an incredible creativity and energy and a big-sky thinking that you need in an organization. ... Paul was all over the place, in the best way."

Other, more successful projects included the creation of a zoo gift shop, which brings in roughly $80,000 a year, Mr. Rapp said. Mr. Kratzer designed T-shirts sold there, came up with the zoo logo and made brochures. He and others raised $400,000 for an endowment.

Inspired by Wal-Mart, Mr. Kratzer suggested a "zoo greeters" program, where volunteers stand at the main gates and hand out maps and remind visitors that they can make a donation. It resulted in a spike in donation box revenues, Mr. Rapp said. In recent years Mr. Kratzer was pushing for a butterfly house.

Mr. Kratzer's two children recalled frequent visits to the zoo while they were growing up.

Nobody was sure where Mr. Kratzer gained his interest in the zoo. Some suggested it was because his house was close to the zoo; Mrs. Phillips noted that his mother was a birdwatcher.

Mr. Kratzer was born in Baltimore and moved to Bronxville, N.Y., where he lived for seven years. The family returned to Maryland, to Riderwood, when he was 14. He graduated from Towson Catholic High School in 1966 and from the University of Maryland in 1970.

He set type for the Washington Daily News while in college and, after graduation, sold ads for the Delaware Coast Press in Rehoboth Beach. He later worked as a graphic artist for Heineken, Fineran & Associates in Salisbury, his family said. In 1976 he moved to Salisbury and opened his own ad firm, Paul Kratzer and Co.

"I could look at any ad, driving down the Shore, and I could say, `Dad did that,'" Mrs. Phillips said. "They didn't all look the same - it was the colors, the fonts he used." Clients included Perdue Farms, Delmarva Power and Ocean City.

Mr. Kratzer's sister Kim Calvert of Norwalk, Conn., recalled a T-shirt he made. It featured a large machine and the following motto: "Paul Kratzer Company: Industrial strength words and pictures."

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. today at the Salisbury Zoo, 755 S. Park Drive, Salisbury. A reception will be held after the service at Market Street Inn, 130 W. Market St., Salisbury. The family suggests donations to the Salisbury Zoo.

In addition to his sister and daughter, survivors include a son, Jason David Kratzer of Savannah, Ga. A marriage to Rebecca Laws ended in divorce.

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