James Fesmire Jr., 85, water supplier

September 19, 2006|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

L James M. Fesmire Jr., a retired marine surveyor who earlier had owned and operated a company that supplied water to ships calling in the Port of Baltimore, died of heart failure Friday at St. Joseph Medical Center. The longtime Lutherville resident was 85.

Mr. Fesmire was born in Baltimore and raised in Hamilton. He was a 1939 graduate of City College and during World War II served as a boatswain aboard Coast Guard buoy tenders in the North Atlantic.

In 1946, he went to work for his father, a former tugboatman who in 1921 had established James M. Fesmire & Son, a service that delivered water by barge to ships.

After his father retired in 1959, Mr. Fesmire took over operation of the firm's two barges based at Chase's Wharf, at the foot of Caroline Street, and which later moved to Thames Street in Fells Point.

The barges were the Anna and the larger Jim-Jac, a self-propelled, 120-foot-long vessel that had been built in 1924 as a Navy water tender.

The latter vessel had a capacity of 100 tons of potable water for drinking and 400 tons of boiler water, which was discharged into waiting ships' tanks at the rate of 250 tons an hour through eight 2 1/2 -inch lines.

The business operated around the clock in fair weather or foul, and included large orders or small, such as 18 tons of fresh water needed to replenish a shipboard swimming pool.

"We always had had an excellent working relationship with the shipping agents," Mr. Fesmire told The Evening Sun in a 1984 article. "My word was my bond. If they needed water delivered, we delivered."

"They played an important role in the port when ships needed to take on water. This was an important service, and both father and son did a good job," said Helen Delich Bentley, the former congresswoman and chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission who wrote about the business in 1950 as a maritime reporter for The Sun. "The job was diminished when we entered the high-tech era."

She added: "He was a very nice guy who believed in the port and contributed a great deal to it."

After closing the business in the 1980s, Mr. Fesmire worked as a marine surveyor for U.S. Salvage Co., examining damaged ships and pleasure craft, until retiring in 1991.

He was a past president of the Propeller Club of Baltimore, Maryland Marine Club, and the Tupenny Club. He also was a Mason and Shriner and a member of the Scottish Rite. He was a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 3065 and Grace United Methodist Church in Baltimore.

Services will be held at 1 p.m. today at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

Surviving are his wife of 59 years, the former Mary Lou Cahill; three daughters, Christa C. Payne of Kingsville, Jamece D. Fondnazio of Alamo, Calif., and Michele L. Heagey of Timonium; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

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