James Openshaw, owner of Cherry Hill construction, dies

James Arnold Openshaw Jr., who owned and operated a heavy construction firm and built Columbia’s Lake Kittamaquandi, died of a respiratory condition July 28 at his home in Edinburgh, Ind. The former Ellicott City resident was 84.

Born in Newport, R.I., he was the son the son of Dorothy Harvest and James Arnold Openshaw. As a boy he lived in Southampton, Mass.

He was a 1951 graduate of Williston Northampton School, where he was captain of the ski team. He obtained a degree with distinction from Virginia Military Institute.

Mr. Openshaw received a commission in the Army and was assigned to a combat engineer battalion. He served at Fort Belvoir, Va.; Fort Riley, Kan.; and in Verdun, France. After he left the military in 1959, he settled in the Washington suburbs and entered the construction industry.

He became a construction manager for Arthur Venneri Construction Co. and oversaw office building construction for the federal government. He later was general manager of Cherry Hill Sand & Gravel Co. and rose to become its president. He moved the company to Jessup, where he refocused its business on general heavy construction.

Mr. Openshaw bought Cherry Hill in 1978 and changed its name to Cherry Hill Construction Inc.

“Under his ownership and leadership, the company flourished and grew to become a major highway and heavy construction contractor in the mid-Atlantic region,” said his daughter, Ann O. DeLawder of Bel Air. “He was a leader in his field and his workers and friends in the industry looked up to him.”

Mr. Openshaw worked with developer James Rouse on early construction in Columbia. He cut through roads for the planned city and built its Lake Kittamaqundi, a focal point of the community.

He also worked on site preparation for Marley Station Mall, built taxi ways at Dulles International Airport and did heavy construction work at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

His firm also built portions of what are now M&T Bank Stadium and FedEx Field, the Reagan Building & International Trade Center and the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center.

He was also a contractor on the construction of the central light rail from Falls Road to Timonium in the early 1990s.

“He was demanding of his employees, but treated them honestly and earned their respect and loyalty,” said his daughter. “He was an early industry leader in prioritizing safety and safety programs.”

Mr. Openshaw sold his business in 2005.

Plans for a memorial service in September in Baltimore are incomplete.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 13 years, Pamela Openshaw; three sons, James A. Openshaw III of Norfolk, Va., David B. Openshaw of Annapolis and Mark F. Openshaw of Jacksonville, Fla.; two sisters, Judy Findeisen of Killington, Vt. and Dorothy Naylor of Calais, Vt.; 14 grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter. His marriage to Barbara Falge ended in divorce. They had been married for 47 years.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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