Earl P. Tuma, a former AT&T engineer who had second career as Orioles usher, dies

Earl P. Tuma, a World War II veteran and retired AT&T engineer who in retirement served as an usher for the Baltimore Orioles, died from aspiration on Tuesday at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

The former Gardenville resident was 90.

“Earl was a true gentleman and a 30-year member of the Orioles family,” John P. Angelos, Orioles executive vice president, wrote in an email. “Those of us who cross the Eutaw Street bridge from the Warehouse for a game will remember him fondly, and I will miss our many chats.”

“Everybody loved him,” said George A. Younce of Queenstown, a fishing buddy of 43 years. “He was very outgoing and just a good guy. He didn’t have an enemy in the world.”

Earl Peter Tuma was the son of Frank Victor Tuma, a Czechoslovakian immigrant and plumber, and Barbara Ann Hulka, a homemaker. He was born in Baltimore and raised in Collington Avenue, which was a Czech neighborhood in those days.

Mr. Tuma attended Patterson Park High School and a city vocational school before he and his 16-year-old twin brother, Edwin Paul Tuma, entered the Sheepshead Bay [N.Y.] Maritime Service Training Station in 1943.

The station was affiliated with the U.S. Maritime Service, Coast Guard and the War Shipping Administration. Its mission was to train 30,000 merchant seamen for duty aboard vessels that, during wartime, delivered materiel to Allied forces.

As a seaman second class, Mr. Tuma sailed aboard the Liberty ship John W. Brown — which is now anchored in the Port of Baltimore — as well as the SS Hawiian Merchant, SS Amarillo Victory, New Zealand Victory, SS China Victory and the Navy oiler-tanker USS Mission San Luis Rey.

He sailed around the world several times and visited ports in India, the Philippines and Australia until leaving the merchant service at the end of the war.

From 1946 until 1948, he worked for the Baltimore Fireworks Specialty Co., which manufactured, packed and shipped fireworks. The company was destroyed by an explosive fire, family members said.

In 1948, he joined the American Television Co. and became known as the “TV Guy” for his expertise in repairs, said his son, Paul Victor Tuma of Glen Arm.

In 1951 he married Patricia Ann Flaherty.

Mr. Tuma was drafted into the Army that year and was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, where he maintained radios, transmitters and all electrical equipment for radio-controlled aerial targets and drones.

Discharged in 1953, he joined the American Telephone &Telegraph Co. — AT&T — in downtown Baltimore, working in the company’s radio and TV engineering division. Some of his work involved overseeing remote broadcasts of Baltimore Orioles and Colts games.

He took early retirement and left AT&T in 1990.

That year Mr. Tuma began a second career working as a parking lot attendant at the old Memorial Stadium. When Camden Yards opened, he became an usher there.

“Perched on the right-field side of the club level for most Orioles games, Earl was a legendary event staff member who brought a smile to all those he encountered throughout his day,” the Orioles said in a team-issued statement. “A familiar face to so many longtime Orioles fans, Earl was adored by his colleagues throughout our organization and he will be deeply missed. We are keeping his family close in our thoughts.”

Mr. Tuma’s last game was April 9, when the Orioles played the Blue Jays.

“He worked the game until the seventh inning when he developed a problem with his leg which turned out to be a clot. He went to my sister’s house, who then drove him GBMC,” his son said.

For the last 30 years, the former Gardenville resident had lived in the Charles Towers Apartments in downtown Baltimore. He lived independently, drove his own car and was a familiar presence to both residents and staff.

Mr. Tuma enjoyed collecting American coins, knives and guns. He especially liked crabbing and fishing with Mr. Younce, whose home overlooks the Wye River.

“We first met back in 1975 through a mutual friend when we went to Cape Charles [Va.] to go drum fishing,” Mr. Younce said.

“His favorite place to spend time was George Younce’s house on the Wye River. He called it ‘paradise,’” his son said.

In 1981, he won a fishing tournament in Key West, Fla., when he landed a 375-pound tiger shark.

Mr. Tuma was proud of his Czech heritage. He and his wife traveled to Czechoslovakia and visited the towns where his parents were born.

He was a member of the Disabled American Veterans, Communication Workers of America and the Baltimore Game and Fish Organization.

“In essence, he bled Baltimore,” his son said. “He loved the city and everything about it.”

“He’s the guy who held court with his friends at the White Tower on a daily basis while drinking coffee and having a burger — solving the problems of the world,” his son said. “When the White Tower closed, they moved to Dunkin’ Donuts, and this remained part of his life until he was hospitalized.”

His wife died in 2015.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Monday at the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Catholic Church, 20 E. Ridgely Road, Lutherville.

In addition to his son, Mr. Tuma is survived by a daughter, Pamela Broussard Tuma of Stoneleigh; and five grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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