Oliver Howard Reeder, 89, president of paint company


Oliver Howard Reeder, whose Baltimore company produced paint for military ships during World War II and who had a lifelong love of the sea, died of pneumonia Thursday at his Towson home. He was 89.

A Baltimore native, Mr. Reeder attended Calvert School and was a 1935 graduate of Gilman School. He earned his bachelor's degree in 1939 from Princeton University, where he was a star chemistry student, a member of Phi Beta Kappa and a drummer in the marching band, said a daughter, Ellen Dryden Reeder of Monkton.

Mr. Reeder returned home to work in the Baltimore Copper Paint Co. that his grandfather had founded in 1870, and was soon thrust into the U.S. war effort. Between 1941 and 1945, the company manufactured vessel coatings for the U.S. Maritime Commission, the U.S. Navy and the British Admiralty. The paint was also used on Russian torpedo boats.

The company received several awards from the federal government for wartime production effort and export achievement.

Mr. Reeder eventually became president of the company and worked there into the 1970s as it passed through the hands of several owners, including SCM Corp. from 1969 to 1974. He retired in 1976.

He had been a trustee of Johns Hopkins Hospital for 30 years and served on the boards of numerous area institutions and companies over the years, including Gilman, the Walters Art Gallery, the U.S. Frigate Constellation Foundation, Savings Bank of Baltimore, Maryland Hospital Laundry, the Canton Co. and Canton Railroad.

The many organizations he belonged to included the Maryland, Elkridge and Gibson Island clubs, the 14 West Hamilton Street Club, and the Society of the Cincinnati, Society of Colonial Wars and Society of the War of 1812, and several yacht clubs.

Mr. Reeder was a skilled sailor. "He was absolutely passionate - passionate - about the sea," his daughter said.

He spent many weekends and vacations on the water, often with his wife, the former Nancy Hardcastle Fisher, whom he married in 1942. He sailed or raced in countries from Norway to Bermuda, and at various times owned a yawl, a cutter, a sloop and a 42-foot ketch.

Mr. Reeder used to race periodically against the king of Norway. In one of those races, his daughter said, he arrived at a turning mark at the same time as the king's boat. A crewman called out, "Must give the king the right of way!" Mr. Reeder, whom friends and family knew to be relentlessly steady and diplomatic, yelled back, "Hell no!"

Another passion was beekeeping: He was proud of the honey from his hives, which won awards at the Maryland State Fair, his family said.

Mr. Reeder had a quiet, meticulous intelligence, his daughter said. He often came home tired from dinner parties, his wife used to say, because he always listened intently and asked perceptive questions. Though Mr. Reeder was often quiet, when he spoke up at board meetings, everyone listened and with a few well-chosen words, he could turn opinions, a colleague once told his daughter.

Though she and her sister grew up to pursue careers and pastimes that were very different from her father's, he always supported them, she said. "Find that passionate interest," he always advised, "and it will expand your horizons."

A memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, 1401 Carrollton Ave., Ruxton.

In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by another daughter, Nancy Reeder El-Bouhali of Bedford, N.Y.; and a granddaughter.

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