By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun
6:01 PM EDT, July 11, 2012
Bruce Page Wilson, former president of Mercantile-Safe Deposit & Trust Co., who earlier had been president of the old Baltimore & Annapolis Railroad, died July 5 of complications from a stroke at Nubbin Ridge, his Green Spring Valley home, where he had lived for more than half a century.
He was 92.
"Bruce Wilson was a very strong and ethical person. He had it all," said H. Grant Hathaway, former chairman and chief executive officer of the old Equitable Trust Bank. "He was ... a terrific competitor."
Mr. Wilson was born and raised in Binghamton, N.Y., where his father was mayor and a banker with an interest in railroads and his mother was a homemaker.
He attended the Adirondack-Florida School and graduated in 1938 from Phillips Exeter Academy.
At Princeton University, he ran track and played football and was proud, family members said, that his was the only class in university history to beat Yale University all four years.
Mr. Wilson graduated from Princeton in 1942 with a bachelor's degree in politics from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
While at Princeton, Mr. Wilson had been a member of the Army ROTC, and after graduation, joined the 498th Armored Field Artillery Battalion of the 13th Armored Division, where he was a captain and battery commander.
His outfit reached Europe just in time for the final phases of the incursion into Bavaria with Gen. George S. Patton Jr.'s 3rd Army and, later, Gen. Omar Bradley's 12th Army.
After the war ended on May 8, 1945, Mr. Wilson's unit helped secure Adolf Hitler's "Eagle's Nest" mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden.
Mr. Wilson was discharged in 1946 with the rank of major. His decorations included a Bronze Star.
In 1946, Mr. Wilson married Laura Dell "Din" Meacham, whose father owned the Steeltin Can Corp., a Baltimore-based container manufacturing company.
Mr. Wilson was secretary and treasurer of Steeltin when he resigned in 1948 to join the Baltimore & Annapolis Railroad Co. as executive assistant to the president, a position he assumed the following year and held for a decade.
It was during his tenure with the B&A that the railroad company abandoned its unprofitable passenger service in 1950 and diversified into the commuter and charter bus business. He further diversified the company when he established the Wilson-Tolchester Steamship Co. and a charter helicopter service.
Mr. Wilson left the B&A in 1961, when he became a divisional vice president of the Carling Brewing Co., which was one of the nation's largest breweries at the time.
He declined being named the company's chief executive because it would have required a move to Cleveland, and he went to work instead for Mercantile Bankshares Corp. in 1970.
In 1975, he was named president and chief operating officer of Mercantile-Safe Deposit & Trust Co., a position he held until 1983, when he was elected vice chairman of the board.
"When I took over, we were starting to grow the bank, which basically had been a trust operation with a small commercial operation," said H. Furlong Baldwin, who had been chairman of Mercantile Bankshares Corp. for 25 years.
"I had known Bruce as a friend and as a director. He had great experience as a businessman," said Mr. Baldwin. "We formed a holding company, and he played an integral role in running the lead bank. He gave us maturity and was very helpful to work with. We had a wonderful relationship."
After his retirement from Mercantile in 1984, Mr. Wilson became a consultant to the court-appointed conservator in the recovery and liquidation of the assets of Old Court Savings & Loan, the failed Baltimore thrift institution that had been owned by Jeffrey Levitt, who became a central figure in the nation's savings-and-loan debacle of the 1980s.
In addition to his banking career, Mr. Wilson was a co-founder of Walker-Wilson Travel Ltd., a Baltimore-based travel agency, with his close friend, M. Cooper Walker. The two men also were co-owners of Walker-Wilson Stables and owned horses that ran in flat and timber races.
During his business career, Mr. Wilson had served as a director of the B&A Railroad Co., Maryland-D.C. Utilities Association, Greater Baltimore Committee, Baltimore Chamber of Commerce, Mercantile Bankshares Corp., Steeltin Can Co., WMAR-TV and Ward Machinery Co.
His charitable board memberships included the United Way of Central Maryland, Union Memorial Hospital, W. Alton Jones Foundation and Golfers Charitable Association, and he had been chairman of the Baltimore Community Foundation.
Mr. Wilson enjoyed sailing the bay on the Moonwatcher, his sailboat. He also liked playing squash, tennis and golf and was a member of the Elkridge Club, Maryland Club and the Mid Ocean Club in Bermuda.
"It was a very balanced life between family, community and business," said his son, Jay M. Wilson of Baltimore.
Mr. Wilson's wife died in 2009.
Services are private.
Also surviving are three daughters, Barbara W. Schweizer of Brooklandville, Katharine W. Denby of Princeton, N.J., and Laura W. Werntz of Falls Village, Conn.; 12 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
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