Daniel Heisler Sheppard Jr., co-founder of a Baltimore steel distribution and fabrication company and a noted collector of American antiques, died Saturday of a heart attack at his vacation home in Bethany Beach, Del.
The longtime Ruxton resident was 85.
Mr. Sheppard, the son of the owner of a dry cleaning establishment and a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised in Towson.
After graduating from Towson High School, he enlisted in the Navy, where he was a signalman in the Pacific Theater aboard the battleship USS Indiana during World War II.
After the war, Mr. Sheppard began his career as a steel salesman with United Steel of America. He later became a salesman for A.M. Castle Steel Co. before joining William G. Wetherall Inc., a steel warehouse and service center, in 1958.
While at Wetherall, Mr. Sheppard met and became close friends with George M. Durrett, who was the company's executive vice president.
In 1963, the two men established Durrett-Sheppard Steel Co. in the former Baltimore Steel Co. plant on Eastern Avenue, and later expanded to a facility at West Ostend, Wicomico and Bayard streets, near today's M&T Bank Stadium.
Durrett-Sheppard, which became the largest supplier in the Middle Atlantic states of hot- and cold-finished bars, plates, structurals, strips, sheets and abrasive-resistant plates, opened a $2 million, 3 million-square-foot facility in 1974 in Canton Industrial Park.
"Durrett-Sheppard's steel service center processes and distributes steel products available for immediate shipment — often within a few hours — to area industries," reported The Baltimore Sun in a 1974 company profile. "Steel is purchased in large mill shipments and sold in quantities ranging from bar to truckload lots."
The partners later added DS Pipe and Supply and continued operating both business until selling it in 1997.
Mr. Sheppard continued to have business interests in Ocean City, Baltimore and Fauquier County, Va., which he managed until retiring in 2004.
He had been a founding partner of the Bank of Maryland, which later became part of Wilmington Trust Co. He also had served on the board of Bay National Bank.
"He was an extremely dynamic individual who was always thinking about something new to do," said Margaret Worrall, a granddaughter. "I think his interest in collecting antiques was second only to his business interests."
Mr. Sheppard's collecting instincts centered on American furniture and paintings.
In April, the Baltimore Museum of Art held a tour and seminar at Mr. Sheppard's Ruxton home that was hosted by J. Michael Flanigan, a Baltimore antiques dealer and furniture appraiser who is a frequent guest on public television's "Antiques Road Show," and his wife, Gregory R. Weidman, former curator of the Maryland Historical Society. .
"He really had great pieces of American history with which he filled his house," Mr. Flanigan said.
"But he had gone through a lot to get it. In the early days, he had bought some bad pieces from dealers who were less than scrupulous," Mr. Flanigan said.
"Lesser men would have given up and admit defeat, but not Dan. He went through a lot to get good stuff. He kept at it," he said.
He described Mr. Sheppard as a being in the "great tradition of Baltimore collectors" who had acquired wonderful examples of Chippendale furniture from Philadelphia as well as furniture from noted furniture makers in Boston and New York.
Mr. Flanigan said that Mr. Sheppard had recently donated a Massachusetts Federal period sofa to the U.S. State Department in Washington and a painting of George Washington to Mount Vernon,
"The painting of Washington was as a young man and when he was a surveyor. The unsigned 19th-century portrait is from Washington's least-famous period," he said.
Mr. Sheppard enjoyed showing his collection to visitors and was generous with his knowledge.
"He was persistent and he took joy in collecting and, until his dying day, wanted to share with others what he had. He loved saying, 'Let me show you around,'" Mr. Flanigan said. "His enthusiasm for American history was undimmed by age or infirmity."
Mr. Sheppard was gifted with an easygoing and outgoing personality.
"He was one of the most affable individuals I've ever met in my life," Mr. Flanigan said. "He loved putting people at ease with a joke or two. He really had a great sense of humor."
Mr. Sheppard's philanthropic interests included Loyola College, Gilchrist Hospice Care and the University of Baltimore.
He enjoyed golfing and was a member of the Baltimore Country Club, Rehoboth Golf and Country Club and the Maryland Club. He also liked vacationing at his summer home in Bethany's Cotton Patch community.
A celebration of Mr. Sheppard's life will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. today at the Baltimore Country Club, 4712 Club Road, Roland Park.
Also surviving are Mr. Sheppard's wife of 62 years, the former Mary Jane Margerum; two sons, Daniel R. Sheppard of Ocean City and Robert H. Sheppard of Reisterstown; a daughter, Caroline H. Gittings of Monkton; two brothers, D. Herbert Sheppard of Lutherville and Richard H. Sheppard of Hendersonville, Tenn.; two sisters, Mary S. Sappington of Towson and Carolyn H. Sheppard of Baltimore; four other grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.