Sylvester P. "Butch" Bollinger

Sylvester P. "Butch" Bollinger

Sylvester Paul "Butch" Bollinger, founder and CEO of Bollinger Energy Corp. who also was a volunteer at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, died Thursday of cancer at Gilchrist Hospice Care.

The Canton resident was 68.

The son of a roofing contractor and a homemaker, Mr. Bollinger was was one of 15 siblings. He was born in Baltimore and raised on Lake Avenue.

After graduating from Loyola High School in 1962, he served in the Navy for four years. He served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Essex during the Cuban missile crisis and later in Iceland as a firefighter in an emergency crash crew.

"I met him at Loyola High School and then we matriculated at Loyola College. He was literally my best friend in high school, and we were inseparable," said Richard M. Karceski, a Towson lawyer. "He was the kind of guy who had to be involved with something and doing something. He just couldn't sit still."

He earned a bachelor's degree in 1970 from what is now Loyola University Maryland and began his business career with Crown Central Petroleum Co. managing gas stations.

After leaving Crown Central, Mr. Bollinger became East Coast sales manager for Apex Oil Co. in Canton, and then general manager for G&M Terminal Co. in Curtis Bay.

"He started getting calls asking advice about oil and decided to go into business on his own," said a son, Matthew P. Bollinger of Stoneleigh, who is now president of Bollinger Energy. "He started the business in 1988 in the basement of our Cedarcroft home."

Mr. Bollinger expanded the business from its strictly local beginning to supplying energy throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

"He saw the opportunity develop for the natural gas market, which he added in 1993, which we began supplying to customers," his son said. "He had vision and a keen business sense, plus he knew all the people in the energy business."

Mr. Bollinger had an outsized personality that earned him many friends and clients.

"Butch was the owner of the biggest irrepressible, mischievous grin in Baltimore, and with the personality to support it," said Mark J. Adams, a family friend who is a Baltimore bail bondsman.

"He enjoyed people and was lots of fun to be around. And because he was loyal, they trusted him," said his son, who joined the business on Clinton Street in Canton in 2000.

"He always believed in doing the right thing and being transparent, and he always said if you do that, then your customers are going to want to do business with you," his son said.

Michele Michael, vice president of Bollinger Energy, worked with Mr. Bollinger for 30 years.

"He was a great visionary," said Ms. Michael. "He started the company from practically nothing and became a wonderful representative of the oil industry in Baltimore.

"Loyalty to him was everything. He was well-trusted and built a client list that included the city, state, Baltimore Gas and Electric, Bethlehem Steel, National Security Agency and the National Institutes of Health, to name a few," said Ms. Michael.

"I think he got his business acumen from his father, and that's how he forged ahead in the business world," said Mr. Karceski. "He tells me he's going to start the business and a few days later, I see an oil truck with his name on it, and I'm thinking, 'Hey, Butch is doing pretty well.' It was a business that required him taking chances. He bought oil on the spot and then hoped he'd make money."

Mr. Bollinger was semiretired at his death.

Every Wednesday, Mr. Bollinger volunteered at the Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, helping patients and their families with hotel arrangements and getting them tickets to sporting events.

"Butch was just a regular guy who had lots of friends. He was the kind of person who'd give you the shirt off his back. He was always there to prop you up when you needed it," said Mr. Karceski.

Mr. Bollinger, who lived in Canton, had a second home in St. Michaels, where he enjoyed fishing and entertaining friends and family.

Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, 740 N. Calvert St.

In addition to his son, Mr. Bollinger is survived by his wife of 41 years, the former Mary Byrnes; two other sons, Mark B. Bollinger of Glyndon and John C. Bollinger of Baltimore; a daughter, Anne Elizabeth McLain of Washington; six brothers, retired Baltimore County Circuit Judge Thomas Bollinger of Fullerton, Timothy Bollinger of Phoenix, Baltimore County, Harry Bollinger of Homeland, David Bollinger of Baltimore, Frank Bollinger of Williamsburg, Va., and John Bollinger of Little Silver, N.J.; six sisters, Nancy Daily of Mount Washington, Patricia France of Wiltondale, Cyrilla Rohrer of Annapolis, Mary King of Timonium, Joan Bollinger of Richmond, Va., and Kathleen Pursiful of Reston, Va.; his stepmother, Cecilia Bollinger of St. Michaels; four grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com