Dawson L. Farber Jr., a retired National Brewing Co. executive and a decorated World War II veteran, died of pneumonia Wednesday at his Brewster, Mass. home. The former Towson resident was 90.
Born in Pierce, W.Va., he was raised in Sparrows Point, where his father practiced medicine. He graduated in 1935 from the Gilman School, where he played varsity football and was captain of the baseball and basketball teams.
He earned a degree in history at Princeton University and played on the baseball team. Known as Lefty, he pitched against Columbia University at Baker Field in New York in a game broadcast by a station that eventually became NBC-TV at the 1939 World's Fair, an event that was called the first televised baseball game.
He joined the Army in 1940 and fought throughout Italy and at Mount Altuzzo, where he held an exposed observation post under heavy enemy artillery fire. He was later awarded the Silver Star for "aggressive, skillful and fearless and tireless devotion to duty." The award credited him with assisting in the Allied breakthrough on the German Gothic Line north of Florence. He also was awarded the Bronze Star. He ended his military career as a captain.
After the war, he returned to Baltimore. While still wearing his Army uniform, he was given a job by Sam Hoffberger, then the president of the National brewery. Mr. Farber was a vice president of marketing from 1950 to 1975 and worked much of that time in sales and marketing at the old Highlandtown plant.
According to a 2002 City Paper article, Mr. Farber pushed for beer in metal cans rather than heavier glass bottles. He also worked closely with the W.B. Doner advertising agency in campaigns that promoted the beer in the "Land of Pleasant Living."
"He was a terrific guy to work with. He was capable and strong and spoke with conviction," said Herbert Fried, former Doner ad agency chairman.
Mr. Farber also backed a new National Brewing product, Colt 45 malt liquor, in 1963 and had it advertised as a "completely unique experience." He also tried to market a beer said to resemble champagne called French 76 and 007 Special Blend, a malt liquor and beer blend.
Family members said Mr. Farber weathered beer wars as National attempted to survive during a period of national consolidation, takeovers and price competition. As the company's senior vice president, Mr. Farber suggested selling the brewery in 1973, and two years later the Hoffberger family agreed to a sale.
He then became board chairman of the combined Carling National Brewery in 1975 and after its sale to G. Heileman Brewing Co. of La Crosse, Wis., in 1979, he was president. He retired in 1982.
Mr. Farber served on the Gilman School's board for more than 35 years and was named a lifetime trustee in 1981.
"I don't think any school had a better friend or advocate than Dawson," said Gilman's headmaster, Jon McGill. "He was dedicated to the notion of taking risks with kids and to paying his faculty."
Mr. Farber began spending vacation time on Cape Cod many years ago. He gave up his Chestnut Avenue home and moved there permanently this year.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. June 3 at Gilman School, Roland Avenue and Northern Parkway.
Survivors include his wife of 61 years, the former Patricia Stokes; five sons, Dawson L. Farber III of Orleans, Mass., Peter S. Farber of Chatham, Mass., Michael C. Farber and Mark D. Farber, both of Brewster, Mass., and Jonathan E. Farber of Owings Mills; a daughter, Lorinda F. Routon, of Henniker, N.H.; 15 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.