Michael H. Weir Sr.

The longtime state delegate from Essex championed bills dealing with hunting, fishing and the environment

February 13, 2010|By Chris Kaltenbach

Longtime state Del. Michael H. Weir Sr., who spent 28 years in the legislature representing his Essex constituents and championing bills dealing with outdoor activities, especially hunting and fishing, died Feb. 5 of pneumonia at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. He was 85.

"He grew up on the water - he trapped, hunted and fished all his life," said a son, Del. Michael H. Weir Jr., who was elected to fill his father's House seat upon Mr. Weir's retirement after the 2002 Assembly session. "He enjoyed very much his reputation as being a sportsman and an environmentalist."

Born in Highlandtown, Mr. Weir moved with his family to Essex at age 5, and spent the rest of his life living in and serving that eastern Baltimore County community.

Mr. Weir served in the Army during World War II as a medic with the 124th Infantry of the 31st (Dixie) Division, assigned to a reconnaissance platoon. He earned two Bronze Stars for his service in New Guinea, Morotai and Mindanao.

After the war, Mr. Weir earned his high school-equivalency certificate, He later earned a vocational teaching certificate from the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

He worked as a mason for more than 40 years; his firm began as Mike Weir and Brothers, said his son, and was later renamed Mike Weir and Sons.

In the mid-1970s, father and son taught a course in bricklaying at Eastern Vocational-Tech (later renamed Eastern Technical High School) in Essex.

"He was laying brick up until he was 80 years old," his son said.

Mr. Weir was bitten by the political bug after working on some local elections in the late 1960s, said a daughter, Aliceann Phelps of Essex. Although he lost his first run for a House seat in 1970, he ran again in 1974 and won. He would hold the seat through six more elections.

Known as a conservative Democrat with a passion for outdoors legislation, he gained a reputation for bipartisanship, said former Del. Terry Connelly, who represented Baltimore County's 6th District alongside Mr. Weir from 1979 to 1991.

"He would always listen to other points of view," said Mr. Connelly. "He always believed that, if a bill wasn't good, then he wouldn't vote for it, no matter who had introduced it."

Added Ms. Phelps: "I often heard my father referred to as a closet Republican. He said he felt he was there to represent his constituents. It didn't matter who was responsible for a piece of legislation; if he liked it, he'd support it."

Mr. Weir was especially attuned to the interests of watermen, hunters and other outdoorsmen. In 1996, for instance, Mr. Weir sponsored or co-sponsored 27 bills, nearly half of which were related to outdoors activities or environmental matters. They included bills to ease restrictions on catching and killing snapping turtles, prohibit the use of gill nets in the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries, prohibit the use of certain ammunition when hunting deer and allow the use of pots to catch turtles where nets are prohibited.

For years, he had advocated the repeal of a state prohibition on Sunday deer hunting that had been on the books since the early 1700s. When then-Gov. Robert H. Ehrlich Jr. signed a partial repeal into law in April 2003, Mr. Weir, who was no longer serving in the House, said, "I never thought I'd live long enough to see this."

As a delegate, Mr. Weir served two terms as vice chairman of the Environmental Matters Committee. He also served as chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission and as a member of the Chesapeake Bay Program executive council, a multistate effort to find ways to clean and protect the bay.

But Mr. Weir's love of the outdoors extended beyond the legislature, said Ms. Phelps. "It became a standing joke that, on Dad's days off, he'd go around planting trees," she said. "And when it came to be wintertime, he always made sure there was enough food in the woods for the deer. Around the house here, we have birdhouses and feed all over the place."

Mr. Weir was a member of the National Rifle Association, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, as well as several Essex-area Democratic clubs.

A funeral service for Mr. Weir is set for 10 a.m. today at the Connelly Funeral Home of Essex, 300 Mace Ave.

In addition to his son and daughter, Mr. Weir is survived by his wife of 63 years, the former Clara D. King; two other sons, Christian Weir Sr. of Essex and Mark Weir Sr. of Parkville; another daughter, Clara "JoJo" Zajdel of Essex; two brothers, Joseph Weir and Gerald Weir, both of Essex; two sisters, Mary Lake of Pasadena and Carolyn Zeberlein of Essex; 10 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by a daughter, Dorothy McGinnity.

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