Walter Focke Herman, the former real estate editor of the old News American, who had earlier been a Baltimore Sun sports writer, died of multiple organ failure March 2 at Keswick Multi-Care Center. The Roland Park resident was 85.
Born in Baltimore and raised on Bolton Street, he was a 1944 St. Paul's School for Boys graduate. He then served in the merchant marine for two years in the South Pacific. After World War II, he earned an English degree at the Johns Hopkins University.
Family members said Mr. Herman's journalism career was a result of his poor health as a youth, which prevented him from playing sports. "He found a way to get involved by covering football, basketball and lacrosse for his school papers," said his daughter, Eleanor Herman Dyment, who lives in McLean, Va.
Mr. Herman joined The Sun's sports department in 1950 and became a reporter who covered high school and college football, basketball, wrestling, baseball and lacrosse. He covered the 1954 Army-Navy game played in Philadelphia as well as several seasons of the Maryland Terrapins at College Park. He remained a sports fan and was a regular for decades at Hopkins' Homewood Field lacrosse games, where he kept team statistics.
In 1957, he took a post on the staff of the old Baltimore News-Post and Sunday American, later The News American. He was real estate editor until the paper's closure in 1986.
"I liked his energy," said James Toedtman, who lives in Vienna, Va., and was among the newspaper's last editors. "I can see him coming to work every day in a rumpled suit and carrying a bulging briefcase. He was always anxious to do something extra. He did a wonderful job of reporting Baltimore's real estate revival of the 1970s and 1980s."
Friends recalled that Mr. Herman liked his job and became a fixture in real estate circles.
"He was such a good-natured, optimistic person," said a former News American colleague, Mike Giuliano of Baltimore. "He was a true Baltimorean and did not redline neighborhoods. He appreciated the city and saw the potential in distressed properties. His writing was colloquial and friendly, written right off the top of his head."
"He was known for his chatty, easy-to-read writing style," said his daughter, Eleanor, who is an author of women's history. "He covered a variety of issues affecting Baltimore real estate — desegregation and fair housing, sky-high inflation and creative financing, and the redevelopment of the Inner Harbor."
She said that after the paper closed, Mr. Herman managed his own real estate investments, including a Roland Park apartment house. He also owned and operated an Oriental rug shop, also in Roland Park, where he lived from 1956 until his death.
"He loved the office gossip and he loved to laugh. He was effervescent," said a former co-worker, Georgia Marudas, who lives in Baltimore. "His desk was always a Mount Everest pile of paper. He would come to work with both arms full of files. He certainly knew the North Baltimore real estate market."
Mr. Herman enjoyed genealogical study. He traced his lineage back to Charlemagne and King Edward III of England. His daughter said he was a descendant of several Mayflower passengers. He had been active as a past governor of the Maryland Mayflower Society. He was also active in the Sons of the American Revolution and the War of 1812 Society.
He was a pet fancier. At one time, he owned seven dogs and a parrot.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at Lorraine Park Cemetery, 5608 Dogwood Road, Baltimore.
In addition to his daughter, survivors include another daughter, Christine Herman Merrill Smith of Baltimore, who paints dogs' portraits. His 1956 marriage to Louise Stauffen ended in divorce in 1973. He was married to Elizabeth Gibbs from 1974 until her death in 2001.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated James Toedtman was the last editor of The News American. The Sun regrets the error.