Bob Skillman, a member of the Baltimore Colts marching Band for 24 years, at the funeral for Johnny Unitas in 2002. (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun / March 16, 2012)

Robert L. Skillman III, a professional photographer who had been a part-time weekend assignment editor at WMAR-TV for a decade, died Tuesday of a heart attack at Northwest Hospital.

The Northwood resident was 59.

Mr. Skillman was attending the annual Ed Block Courage Awards ceremony at Martin's West when he collapsed from a heart attack. He was taken to Northwest Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, family members said.

Mr. Skillman was born in Baltimore and raised in Northwood. He was a 1970 graduate of Calvert Hall College High School and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Baltimore.

While in high school, Mr. Skillman became interested in photography. He later worked in the FBI photo laboratory and as a photographer for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority.

During the nation's 1975-1976 bicentennial celebration, he toured the country as a staff photographer aboard the American Freedom Train.

Beginning in 1988, Mr. Skillman worked part time as WMAR's weekend assignment editor on the 3:30 p.m.-to-11:30 p.m. shift.

"He was a good guy to have in that job. He was pure Baltimore through and through, and knew all the streets and neighborhoods," said his former WMAR colleague, Mark A. Vernarelli, who is now spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

"Being assignment editor is one of the hardest jobs in the newsroom, because at any given moment you're dealing with breaking news, crime, drug raids, fires, accidents and ambulances going here and there," said Mr. Vernarelli. "He was a high-energy guy who wanted things done, and done now."

During one shift while Mr. Skillman manned the newsroom telephones, jockeyed two-way radios and listened to the police and fire scanners, a call came in from a severely disturbed woman.

"It was from a woman who threatened to kill her kids and then commit suicide," said John Ziemann, a former WMAR newsroom technician who is now president of Baltimore's Marching Ravens band.

"Bob kept her on the phone until the police got there. He even heard her click the gun, so he knew it was the real thing," said Mr. Vernarelli.

"He played it cool, very cool, and Mary Beth Marsden, who was the anchor that night, stayed and helped Bob," he said. "This distraught person was saved from suicide because Bob Skillman cared. That's the kind of guy he was."

"He stayed friends with the woman for years and made sure that she got through therapy. He even got to know her kids," said Mr. Ziemann.

"He was the kind of person who never wanted the limelight but deserved it. He was a genuine Baltimore character, like Mr. Diz or Harry the Hat," said Jamie Costello, WMAR news anchor.

"He'd still call me at all hours, and he always used the code name of 'Lieutenant Skillman,' so I knew who the call was from," said Mr. Costello with a laugh.

"In his side of the news, you needed a sense of humor and laughter to get you through. He appreciated the human aspect of things," said Joe Hammann, a former WMAR sports producer. "He was a very localized person who knew the history of Baltimore. He also appreciated all of the local sports teams and high school teams."

For the last 13 years after leaving WMAR, Mr. Skillman worked as a professional photographer.

Mr. Skillman loved music and was a longtime member of the Colts Marching Band.