Charles Stieff

Charles C. "Chas" Stieff II, former executive vice president of the Kirk-Stieff Co. who had been active in civic affairs, died May 17 of heart failure at the Broadmead retirement community. He was 92.

Charles Clinton Stieff II was born in Baltimore, the son of Gideon Numsen Stieff and Claire von Marees Stieff. In 1892, his grandfather, Charles C. Stieff, established the silversmith Stieff Co., which in 1979 merged with Samuel Kirk & Sons to form Kirk-Stieff Co.

Mr. Stieff was raised on Ridgewood Road in Roland Park.

After graduating in 1941 from McDonogh School, he began his college studies at Washington & Lee University. While at Washington & Lee, he played lacrosse and was captain of the wrestling team that won the Southern Conference wrestling championship.

His education was interrupted by World War II, when he became a radar operator and was stationed in Molesworth, England, with the 8th Air Force's 303rd Bomb Group.

He briefly returned to Washington & Lee after the war before going to work for the Stieff Co.

In 1949, he married Priscilla Whaley, who was living with her family near Ocean City.

"The first time he came to visit my family, he told my mother as he was leaving there was only one thing wrong with his weekend stay. He said, 'I had to eat with your damn Kirk Silver,' and she replied, 'Well, Charlie, the next time you come, you better bring your own silver,' and he did," Mrs. Stieff said laughing.

During his more than 40-year career with Kirk-Stieff, Mr. Stieff worked in sales, advertising and product development.

"One thing Charles did was hire salesmen to sell silver, and he also had an awful lot to do with our line of reproductions, such as our Jefferson cups," said his brother, Gideon N. Stieff Jr. of Roland Park, who oversaw the company's retail division.

"The reproduction of the Jefferson cup was one of the best-sellers in pewter of all time," Charles C. Stieff II wrote in a biographical sketch.

The company made reproductions for such clients as the Smithsonian Institution, Monticello, Sturbridge Village, Valley Forge, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Historic Charleston, Newport Historical Society, Mystic Seaport, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mr. Stieff also was involved with the Woodlawn Vase, given to the winner of the Preakness Stakes.

"I was in charge of the trophy business that Schofield had after we acquired them," wrote Mr. Stieff in the sketch. "This included the replica of the Woodlawn Vase for the Preakness. I was the one that appraised the Woodlawn Vase, which we used to keep in the vault of our factory, for $1,000,000."

In 1979, the Stieff Co. purchased the venerable Baltimore silver maker, Samuel Kirk & Sons, founded in 1815. The two firms merged to create Kirk-Stieff Co., which became the oldest silversmith firm in the country.

"After we sold the stores and bought Kirk, we started making jewelry, and Charles was on the road a lot. He was a great brother and always worked well with me during my years with the company," said Mr. Stieff.

One advertising and promotion assignment that Mr. Stieff reveled in took him to Hollywood in the late 1950s.

"When a new silver pattern, Diamond Star, was to be launched, he traveled to Hollywood to present Natalie Wood with a set for a new ad campaign that was going to run in Seventeen magazine," said Mrs. Stieff. "He cherished the picture of Natalie Wood kissing him on the cheek during the presentation, and he told that story the rest of his life."

He retired in 1987.

His professional memberships included serving as president of the American Pewter Guild and Sales and Marketing Executives of Baltimore.

An affable man who enjoyed a wide circle of friends and a good time, Mr. Stieff was an entertaining storyteller.

"When I heard that Chas had died, my first thought was that he was a gentleman to the core. He was well-spoken and kind and would not have hurt a fly," said Charles O. Culver, a friend of more than 60 years and a retired Philadelphia advertising executive.

"He loved to tell the story of going to a fundraising dinner for the Newport Preservation Society," said a son, Charles C. Stieff III of Ruxton. "There he met David Rockefeller, who borrowed $25 from him to buy a raffle ticket for a Ford car, as he had no cash. He gave my father a check, which was not cashed for quite some time."

Mr. Stieff had been president of the Medical Eye Bank of Maryland, Florence Crittenton Services of Baltimore, the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, the Baltimore Independent School Scholarship Fund, and the Boys' Latin School board of trustees.

Mr. Stieff enjoyed spending summers at a family home in Weekapaug, R.I., where he liked to sail.

Mr. Stieff had been a resident of Roland Park and the Charlesbrooke neighborhood of Baltimore County. He had lived at Broadmead since 2000.

He was a member and past elder of Brown Memorial Woodbrook Presbyterian Church and a member of the Baltimore Country Club.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. June 8 at Broadmead, 13801 York Road, Cockeysville.

In addition to his wife, son and brother, Mr. Stieff is survived by another son, James W. Stieff of Roland Park; two daughters, Priscilla C. "Rusty" Stieff of Boston and Susanna U. Stieff of New York City; 11 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com