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Glen Burnie's family feud


F. Ward DeGrange was one of those men who made the sprawling, chrome-plated suburb of Glen Burnie take on the warmth of an old-fashioned small town.

Mr. DeGrange, who died of cancer last Friday, began working with his father's construction company in the early 1940s, and helped to build more than 100 homes in the fast-growing community. In 1948, as the Glen Burnie building boom accelerated, he and his father founded DeGrange Lumber Co., a family business that now employs Mr. DeGrange's four sons.

Mr. DeGrange not only helped to build Glen Burnie, he also helped to sustain it. He was active in Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, the Glen Burnie Improvement Association and the Kiwanis Club. He served as a trustee of Anne Arundel Community College and was on the board of directors of both the Glen Burnie Mutual Savings Bank and the Bank of Glen Burnie.

The latter has been in the news lately because of a nasty feud between bank officials. When shareholders met a day prior to Mr. DeGrange's death, they voted to oust 11 of the 12 board members, including Mr. DeGrange.

The two factions disagree on the reason for the power struggle. Ousted members claim it is a power grab by the new president, who had previously been an adviser to the board.

The new board members contend that the previous president acted dictatorially and unnecessarily exposed the bank to a discrimination suit.

Whatever the cause, the struggle has all the pathos of a family tragedy. These bank officials are not mere business partners. In many cases, the major shareholders, directors and officers are related by blood or marriage. They socialize together. And together they have served on many of the various boards and agencies that are the community's glue.

These men, like Mr. DeGrange, have spent the better part of their lives trying to make Glen Burnie a prosperous and appealing town.

No matter how various pending legal maneuvers turn out, there is no reason to think that the Bank of Glen Burnie itself is in danger. The bank has been an institution in the community since 1949, and the money of investors and depositors appears to be safe.

Sadly, the human relationships are more fragile. Wounds caused by friends and family members can be the slowest to heal.

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