Robert Pickering

Age 64 Former Evening Sun editor wrote daily handicapping column, enjoyed restoring old homes.

Mr. Pickering was blessed with a sunny disposition and a knack for repairing almost anything.

August 03, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,Sun Reporter

Robert Michael "Pick" Pickering Sr., a retired Evening Sun makeup editor who enjoyed restoring old homes, died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma Wednesday at University of Maryland Medical Center. The Towson resident was 64.

Mr. Pickering was born in Baltimore and raised in Ednor Gardens.

"We grew up in the shadow of Memorial Stadium. It was a great place to grow up. We played handball, stickball, half ball and touch football in the back alleys or the streets," said Mike Ward, a childhood friend who is now a certified public accountant and real estate broker. "Dozens of us would meet on the fields at Eastern High School for pickup baseball games."

In 1961, Mr. Pickering was a member of the first class to graduate from Calvert Hall College High School after its move from Cathedral Street to its new Towson campus. He also attended McCoy College at the Johns Hopkins University.

While in high school, Mr. Pickering began working at the old News American as a part-time copy boy, and in 1964 joined The Evening Sun as a communications clerk.

Working as a Teletype operator, he was assigned to press boxes at Pimlico, Laurel and Bowie race tracks, where he was responsible for transmitting race results to the newspaper and acting as a self-appointed de facto editor.

"When I handed him my copy, he'd take a look and say, 'Hmmmmm, a little treasure map,' " said Dale Austin, former Sun racing reporter. "Or he'd ask, 'Do you really want to write this?' "

Mr. Austin recalled the time when he and Mr. Pickering shared a $2 bet on a horse.

"The horse paid $200, and Pick rolled his eyes and said, 'Only in racing,' " Mr. Austin said.

Joseph B. Kelly, retired Washington Star racing editor and turf historian, recalled meeting Mr. Pickering years ago.

"He was a very good example of a person who was upbeat at all times and was just a wonderful guy to be with in a track press box," Mr. Kelly said. "He was just a pleasant and happy guy."

In 1972, Mr. Pickering was promoted to sports reporter and four years later to makeup editor, where he worked in the newspaper's old fourth-floor composing room, supervising the layout of The Evening Sun's sports pages.

For years, he also wrote a daily handicapping column for the evening newspaper.

"We went to the Timonium track one time, and the crazy race fans recognized Pick and booed and threw food at us," said Mr. Ward, laughing.

Wearing his trademark Kelly-green corduroy pants with a printer's rule jutting from a rear hip pocket, horn-rimmed glasses jammed high above his forehead, and puffing on a maduro cigar, when smoking was allowed in the building, Mr. Pickering cut quite a figure in the composing room, where he generously dispensed both his amiability and an endless series of running one-liners and wisecracks.

"If you knew Bobby Pickering, you couldn't help but like him. He always had a smile on his face," said Bill Tanton, retired Evening Sun sports editor. "He was a plus in any group."

Larry Harris, a retired assistant Evening Sun sports editor, was a longtime colleague and friend.

"Because Bobby had that early Teletype training, he could play a typewriter or computer keyboard like Horowitz. He'd compile standings and statistics, and was capable of an incredible amount of work," Mr. Harris said.

After The Evening Sun ended publication in 1995, Mr. Pickering continued working as a makeup editor for The Sun until retiring in 2001.

He worked in the Baltimore Country registrar of wills office for about five years, family members said.

Over the years, Mr. Pickering enjoyed renovating old homes.

"He was a championship guy and could fix anything. He could have fixed the Hubble telescope if they let him," Mr. Harris said. "He could tune the motor in your car, put on a new roof for you or hang a door. He was just a treasure."

A decade ago, Mr. Pickering was diagnosed with the disease that ended his life.

"They gave him five years, and he lived 10," Mr. Ward said. "He was a fighter and a real inspiration."

Mr. Harris recalled Mr. Pickering's will to live.

"He may have been diminutive in stature, but what a heart this man had. I think he really showed them a few things at the University of Maryland Medical Center," he said.

Mr. Pickering, a former Riderwood and Mays Chapel resident, who had lived in Dulaney Towers in Towson since 2000, enjoyed golfing and spending time at a second home in Ocean Pines.

He was a longtime active member and former president of the Towson Elks Lodge.

Mr. Pickering attended St. Jude Shrine in downtown Baltimore, where plans for a memorial Mass were incomplete yesterday.

Surviving are his wife of 44 years, the former Judith Gettman; a son, Robert Michael Pickering Jr. of Towson; a daughter, Lisa Pickering Marchetti of Hampden; a sister, Linda Pickering Elliott of Grasonville; and two grandsons.

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