John L. Edler, power plant operator

Engineer oversaw the operation of Baltimore-area power plants and after retirement worked for clean-air initiatives

November 14, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

John L. Edler, a retired utility company executive whose career with Baltimore Gas and Electric and later Constellation Energy spanned four decades, died of a cardiac arrest Nov. 4 at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center.

He was 70 and lived in Bel Air.

Mr. Edler, the son of an Esskay worker and a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised in Canton.

The day after graduating from Polytechnic Institute in 1957, Mr. Edler began his BGE career, working as a draftsman.

While continuing to work for BGE during the day, Mr. Edler studied mechanical engineering at night at the Johns Hopkins University, where he earned his degree in 1967.

He was also a registered professional engineer, a registered stationary engineer in Maryland and served in the Air National Guard from 1958 to 1960.

At various periods during his career, Mr. Edler was the chief engineer or manager of BGE's major power plants in the Baltimore area, including Wagner, Westport, Gould Street, Crane and Brandon Shores.

"John was respected by everyone, whether it was a power plant operating manager or vice president," said Ron Lowman, a friend and colleague of 40 years. "He was one of the most competent engineers I ever had the pleasure of working with."

Mr. Lowman recalled him as being a "true gentleman in every sense of the word. And he knew his business. I could trust his judgment."

Later, Mr. Edler managed the BGE Fossil Engineering and Maintenance Department, which served the generating stations.

"John was something of a legend in the power plant division," said Tom Valenti, BGE senior vice president.

"He was a key leader in the power plant world at BGE and later Constellation, and was a master of power plant operation and maintenance. He had lots of experience in what is a complex, 24-7, demanding business," he said.

"John not only knew the technical part, he also understood and valued the human element. He was a respected and beloved leader." Mr. Valenti said.

"When I was younger, John was both a teacher and a mentor to me, and I knew I could always call him up for advice," he said.

At his 2002 retirement, Mr. Edler was vice president of engineering for Constellation Generation.

For the past decade, Mr. Edler had volunteered with the American Lung Association of the Atlantic Coast, where he had served on the organization's board, chaired its clean-air initiative and helped with events.

"John made an unrivaled and incredible impact on our organization because he really believed in clean air," said Melina Davis-Martin, ALA president and CEO. "He challenged boldly and was a passionate advocate for both clean air and healthy lungs."

Ms. Davis-Martin said that Mr. Edler had the ability to "inspire people to do more and challenged them to taker bolder steps."

About a decade ago, Mr. Edler lost part of his diaphragm.

"John had breathing issues, but not many people knew this, and because he had lost part of his diaphragm, he had great empathy for people who had breathing issues," said Ms. Davis-Martin.

"He was engaged in this work because he didn't want others to struggle with what he had to face," she said.

Ms. Davis-Martin said that in recognition of his work, the ALA has established the John Edler Healthy Air Fund and Annual Award.

Mr. Edler was a fancier of classic automobiles and enjoyed caring for his yard and gardens.

Services were held Monday at the McComas Funeral Home in Abingdon.

Surviving are his wife of 32 years, the former Sally Clark; two daughters, Ellen Edler and Sharon Edler, both of Baltimore; and a sister, Joann Greenwell of Glen Burnie. An earlier marriage to the former Mary Hogan ended in divorce.

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