Stephen B. Waters, Fire Business Owner

December 09, 2009

Stephen Bosley Waters, owner of a fire protection business and the younger brother of filmmaker John Waters, died of a brain tumor Saturday at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Brooklandville resident was 57.

"Steve was a younger brother who was in two worlds," said John Waters. "He successfully ran a company my father had owned, and he played the hitchhiker whom Divine almost ran over in his Cadillac in 'Pink Flamingos.' "

John Waters said that his brother was "the only person I would trust to run the box office for my early films." He recalled renting the University of Baltimore auditorium for public showings of the films to avoid Maryland censorship laws and having his brother hand the movie receipts to their father.

"Steve could be comfortable in any world," John Waters said. "He was unjudgmental."

Family members said that because of the family knowledge of fire prevention, Mr. Waters also kept fire-control devices ready when his brother made films in the 1970s.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Lutherville, Mr. Waters was a 1970 graduate of Boys' Latin School, where he played lacrosse and soccer. He was active in a theater group at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer. He earned a history degree from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa.

In 1974, he joined his father's Lansdowne fire protection company, the Fireline Corp. He became the firm's president in 1982.

"He was the first one to work in the morning and the last one to leave at night," said his longtime assistant, Cindy Ruepple of Linthicum. "He had an open-door policy. Anyone could talk to him. He was the best boss you could ask for."

She said that Mr. Waters, who sold fire extinguishers, sprinklers and alarms, liked seeing his firm's red trucks polished to a bright shine.

"His life was family, friends and Fireline and I'm not sure where Fireline fell," said his wife of 31 years, the former Sharon Smith. "He was generous and genuine, one of a kind. He adored me and always made me feel that way."

Mr. Waters was active in the National Association of Fire Equipment Distributors and was its regional director and president from 1985 to 1987. He received the group's Pat Fredriksen Award for his fire protection work, including time spent working to use environmentally friendly fire-control agents.

"He was a man of integrity," said a friend, Leonard Kennedy of Phoenix in Baltimore County. "He took his responsibilities seriously but never took himself too seriously."

He was a past director and program chairman of the Baltimore City Rotary Club that meets at the Belvedere Hotel. He was named a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow for his charity work. He also sat on the board of the Flag House and Star-Spangled Banner Museum.

He attended Colts games from the 1960s until the team's departure. He later attended all Ravens games and was a faithful Orioles follower. Friends said that no matter how poorly the Orioles played, Mr. Waters remained a supporter of the team. Mr. Waters enjoyed playing tennis and was an ambidextrous player.

"He was an avid reader," said his daughter, Anna Waters Gavin of Perry Hall. "His perfect afternoon was a good book, a good cigar, and when health permitted, a smooth tequila."

Relatives said that Mr. Waters liked music and was a fan of Van Morrison, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and the Beatles.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Catholic Community of St. Francis Xavier, 13717 Cuba Road, Hunt Valley.

In addition to his wife, brother and daughter, survivors include a son, Stephen Bosley Waters Jr. of Santiago, Chile; his mother, Patricia Whitaker Waters of Towson; two sisters, Kathleen M. Weatherly of Bridgewater, Va., and Patricia W. Waters of Alexandria, Va.; and a grandson.

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