Thomas Townsend "Townie" Hoen, lithographic firm president, dies

Businessman had invented the Plimpton Ball

  • Thomas Townsend Hoen
Thomas Townsend Hoen
May 25, 2011|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Thomas Townsend "Townie" Hoen, who was the last president of the noted Baltimore lithographic firm of A. Hoen & Co. and inventor of the Plimpton Ball, died Saturday of lung cancer at his Owings Mills home.

He was 76.

The son of a neurosurgeon and a homemaker, Mr. Hoen was born in Montreal, Quebec, and raised in Cedarhurst, N.Y. After graduating in 1952 from Kent School in Kent, Conn., he attended Le Rosey in Rolle, Switzerland, for a year.

He was a 1957 graduate of Middlebury College and served in Army intelligence at Fort Holabird and in Rochester, N.Y.

He settled in Baltimore in 1960 and went to work for A. Hoen & Co., which had been founded in Baltimore in 1835, becoming its president six years later.

Under Mr. Hoen's leadership, the firm, which was located at Chester and Biddle streets in East Baltimore and was renowned for its high-quality lithography, National Geographic maps and ornithological and steamship prints, expanded its business.

The company began printing Topps baseball cards, Dr. Seuss books and assorted magazines, family members said.

After A. Hoen & Co. closed in 1981, Mr. Hoen was an executive at United Litho in Falls Church, Va., and for the last decade of his business career until retiring in 2002 was executive director of the Independent College Fund of Maryland.

He had been president of the Printing Industries of America.

He was a member of the Green Spring Valley Hunt Club and vacationed at a family camp in the Adirondacks, where he was a member of the Adirondack League Club.

He was the inventor of the Plimpton Ball.

"When he was at Le Rosey, being an American kid, he wanted to play baseball but there were a lot of glass windows on the buildings, so he made a ball with toilet paper and adhesive, which could be hit with a bat," said a son, Thomas D. Hoen of Roland Park.

"He named it the Plimpton Ball for its fictional inventor, Webley Plimpton. A baseball-like tourney used to be played in Brooklandville, with great fanfare, that included movies and a marching band," Mr. Hoen said. "Regular baseball rules apply except you can throw the Plimpton Ball at players and tag them out."

Mr. Hoen was an avid golfer.

He was a communicant for more than 30 years at St. John's Episcopal Church in Glyndon, where he had been church treasurer and a vestryman.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at his church, 3738 Butler Road.

Also surviving are his wife of 36 years, the former Maxine Vought; three other sons, Benjamin D. Hoen of Milan, N.Y., E. Weber Hoen of Arlington, Mass., and Storrs T. Hoen of Brisbane, Calif.; a stepson, Robert B. Nichols III of Fairfield, Conn.; a stepdaughter, Whitney N. Covington of Chestertown; two brothers, Robin Hoen of Grantham, N.H., and Jonathan Hoen of New York City; and 10 grandchildren.

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