Robert M. Connor Sr.

He Founded Locust Industries Ltd., A Trucking, Warehousing And Distribution Company At The Port Of Baltimore

December 01, 2009|By Nick Madigan | Nick Madigan,nick.madigan@baltsun.com

Robert McIntyre Connor Sr., the founder of a port of Baltimore transportation company who began his career as a truck driver for a dry cleaner in Catonsville, died Nov. 23 at the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson. He was 86.

Family members said he had been in declining health and had suffered a fall a few days before he died.

Mr. Connor, owner of Locust Industries Ltd., a trucking, warehousing and distribution firm, was the last of 10 children raised on Osborne Avenue in Catonsville by John S. Connor and Ann Loretta McCabe Connor. He had eight brothers and one sister.

He attended St. Mark's School in Catonsville, Mount St. Joseph High School in Baltimore and Loyola College. Mr. Connor served in the Navy and the Marine Corps, training as a pilot in California in preparation for service during World War II, but the war ended just as he was about to leave for overseas duty against the Japanese.

Lee Connor, one of his nephews, recalled him joking, "When they heard I was coming, they surrendered!"

He later returned to Loyola College and earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy in 1947. That year, Mr. Connor married Thelma Louise Dusterhoff, also of Catonsville. They raised six children in Catonsville and in 1967 moved to Guilford in North Baltimore. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1978.

Mr. Connor's first full-time job in the mid-1940s was as a delivery driver for Gordon Einstein's dry cleaning business in Catonsville. Proud of landing the job, he always kept his truck washed and waxed so it looked its best for customers.

In 1947, he began a 17-year tenure in operations and then in sales for Joseph M. Dignan & Sons Inc., a transportation company that handled freight between the Baltimore area and New York.

In 1964, Mr. Connor was offered a job at the Connor Trading Co., an arm of a family business, John S. Connor Inc., a customs broker and freight forwarder at the port of Baltimore. His task was to sell tax-free whiskey, wine and cigarettes to ships arriving in Baltimore and Cambridge and to embassies in Washington. Mr. Connor's success was such that a competitor, Samuel Meisel Inc., a ship handling business, bought the trading company from the Connor family.

Mr. Connor had already started his own small trucking and warehousing firm in conjunction with the ship stores business and, in 1971, after the sale of Connor Trading was completed, his firm became Locust Industries.

His eldest son, Robert M. Connor Jr., worked alongside his father since the firm was founded, and another son, Patrick C. Connor, worked there for almost two decades. Over the years, Mr. Connor's four daughters all worked for the company in some administrative, operations or sales capacity.

In 1983, Mr. Connor persuaded his family members to contribute to the purchase of a 14-acre site with a 155,000-square-foot warehouse on Hollins Ferry Road in Halethorpe. The contents of three other leased warehouses were moved to the Hollins Ferry facility. In 1986, Mr. Connor bought out his relatives, and the business remained in his name until 2006, when he retired.

The Hollins Ferry Road warehouse was sold that year, although his son Robert continues to operate the firm from Wicomico Street.

A memorial Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at SS Philip and James Church, 2801 N. Charles St. in Charles Village, where Mr. Connor was a member.

In addition to his two sons, who both live in Baltimore, Mr. Connor is survived by his four daughters, Thelma Louise Kiefaber and Maria Loretta White, both of Baltimore; Mary Elizabeth Connor of Oriental, N.C., and Celeste Irene Dunstan of Ocean City; as well as 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Mr. Connor's second marriage, to Thelma Peters Connor of Willow Valley, Pa., ended in divorce in 2006.

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