"We must not overlook the extraordinariness of Baltimore's collective backyard," he wrote. "We must save the Mencken House — and all of Baltimore's important history."

Christopher Corbett is a Baltimore writer who teaches at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

"I got to know Richard because UMBC had reached out to the Friends of the Mencken House, and if anything needed help, it was the Mencken House," said Mr. Corbett, who added, "His death is a terrible loss for the House."

Mr. Corbett said not only was "he was a driving force down there — he'd do anything for the house — he was an incurable optimist when it came to the Mencken House, and it required it."

Mr. Pickens was also the secretary-treasurer of the Society to Preserve H. L. Mencken's Legacy.

"We agreed to merge the Society and the Friends after the first of the year, and we would most likely simplify the name to the Mencken House Trust," said Mr. Lord, who in his capacity as chairman would focus on fundraising and financial matters surrounding the house.

"Richard would have been president of the operating group that would oversee the construction of the house and its operation after it reopens. He had the confidence of both groups," he said. "It would have essentially been Richard's baby."

"As president of the Friends of the Mencken House, he had instigated and organized many successful events and programs. He was making things happen with the Mencken House," said Ms. Rodgers. "As a person, he was modest, almost to a fault; witty and easy to be with, and had a wonderful sense of humor. He was also a dear friend; to know him was to love him."

Mr. Lord said that in the near future an event will be held to honor Mr. Pickens' life and devotion to the restoration of Mr. Mencken's home, where the newspaperman had lived most of his life and where he died in 1956.

"Richard was greatly beloved," said Mr. Lord.

Mr. Pickens enjoyed riding his bike, traveling and collecting books.

A gathering celebrating Mr. Pickens' life will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday at the George P. Kalas Funeral Home, 2973 Solomons Island Road, Edgewater.

Surviving are his parents, Richard and Babette Pickens of Crofton; a brother, Robert Scott Pickens of Crofton; and several aunts and uncles.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com