James Culp

James Culp ( )

James B. Culp Sr., a retired mechanical engineer and World War II combat veteran who was present for the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp, died of congestive heart failure July 13 at his home in the Charlestown Retirement Community. The former Catonsville resident was 92.

Born in Baltimore and raised on West Mulberry Street, he was the son of Harry G. Culp, a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. employee, and Elizabeth Dorsey Culp, a homemaker.

Mr. Culp was a 1939 Polytechnic Institute graduate and earned a bachelor's degree at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

He joined the Army in 1942 and was assigned to the 6th Armored Division, known as the Fighting Turtles. He served in the tank division and landed in France several weeks after the Allied invasion began in June 1944. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge during the winter of 1944-1945 and witnessed the liberation of the Buchenwald death camp in April 1945.

"This was not something he spoke of until later in his life. And he spoke very little about it," said his son, Ronald Culp of Houston. "He had nothing but admiration for General George Patton."

After the war, he married Norma Elizabeth Clark. Their first date was at the old Carlin's Park roller rink.

Although trained as a graphic artist, Mr. Culp was also skilled in drafting. He joined the Koppers Co. and initially worked on Scott Street in Southwest Baltimore. He became a mechanical engineer and later worked at Bush and Hamburg streets.

"He was a calm, easygoing man who was well organized and maintained a good attitude," said his son. "He was patient with people, and if he had a temper, you'd only see it once in a while. And you would see it only at an appropriate time. He was also the kind of person who never left a job undone."

At Koppers, he worked in the field of piston rings and seals for high-compression engines used typically on ships and in natural gas pumping stations. His son said that a design handbook he created remains in print today.

Mr. Culp was a member of the Maryland Society of Professional Engineers and held a professional engineer's license throughout most of his career.

He retired in 1990.

After settling in Catonsville on Forest Lane, he became a leader of Cub Scout Pack 456 at St. Mark's Roman Catholic Church.

"Jim Culp was a kind and gentle man," said the Rev. Christopher Whatley, pastor of St. Mark's. "He was discreet and willing to help. He was a great role model for his four sons."

Mr. Culp kept his hand in graphic arts by volunteering for church projects. He also made his own Christmas cards and designed an early corporate symbol for the Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting.

He read widely and traveled. He also enjoyed craft items, including birdhouses, which he gave to his grandchildren or to friends as housewarming gifts.

Mr. Culp was an active member of Toastmasters International and enjoyed public speaking.

A memorial Mass at St. Mark's Church will be celebrated in September. The date has not been set.

In addition to his son, survivors include three other sons, James B. Culp Jr. of Ellicott City, Thomas M. Culp of Marriottsville and Clark T. Culp of Ellicott City; 11 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. His wife of 60 years died in 2005.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com