Philip D. Baer, 74, railroad employee, inveterate traveler


Longtime Pimlico resident Philip D. Baer worked nearly all his life for the Western Maryland Railway, but he loved to travel by automobile -- to Alaska, Mexico City and all 48 contiguous states for good times like the Rose Bowl parade and Mardi Gras.

The traveling began with cross-country camping trips that "Papa Baer" and his wife Jeanne made in an old Checker cab when their four daughters were young. Their tours continued in motor homes after Mr. Baer's 1983 retirement.

"We were nomads after the girls grew up," said the former Jeanne Groleaux, his wife of 51 years. "We also [flew] to Hong Kong, England, Denmark, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Austria, Venezuela, and Japan. One day we crossed into Mexico on a boat pulled by a rope."

Mr. Baer's wanderlust ended Sunday when he died of leukemia at the Marriottsville home of a daughter, Sue Patton. He was 74.

A memorial service will be held 1: 30 p.m. tomorrow at the Boumi Temple Shrine, 5050 King Ave. in White Marsh.

"Dad could hold a crowd with his stories," said Ms. Patton. "In his later years, he was a Santa at a family crisis center in Dundalk and gave the money to the Shriners children's hospital. We still have his Santa suit."

Born in Union Bridge, Mr. Baer was the son of a doctor. His mother worked as a nurse and nutritionist at the Maryland School for the Blind.

He was a 1942 graduate of Sykesville High School and joined the Coast Guard in 1943, working weather surveillance aboard the USS Abilene in the North Atlantic.

Discharged in 1946, Mr. Baer went to work as a freight negotiator for Western Maryland Railway and retired from the company as an assistant manager in the pricing department when the company -- now CSX -- was known as the Chessie System.

Mr. and Mrs. Baer were married in 1948 and settled on Madison Street in Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighborhood. When daughter Sue arrived in 1950, the couple moved to Pimlico, where they lived until Mr. Baer quit working.

"He did all our wash and most of the cooking when we were growing up," said Ms. Patton. "He steamed vegetables perfectly and put what he called 'secret seasoning' on his baked chicken. I think it was whatever he found in the cabinet. He made great peanut butter cookies."

After 1983 -- when Mr. Baer threw away his razor for his role as Santa -- the Baers took to the road and never again held a permanent address.

When they weren't traveling, the couple lived aboard a houseboat called the Jeanne Louise in Bodkin Creek.

Mr. Baer's interests ranged from roles as a Boumi Temple Shriner, including marching in their drum corps, to membership in the American Legion and the Sons of the American Legion.

His Boumi Temple home lodge was No. 152 in Waverly. In 1992, he served as director of ceremonies for the organization's Grand Lodge of Maryland and in 1969 was honored as a 33rd degree Mason from the Scottish Rite.

He was also a longtime member of Seventh Baptist Church at North Avenue and St. Paul Street, where he and Mrs. Baer were married.

He is survived by three other daughters, Elizabeth A. Baer and Deborah C. Baer, both of Baltimore, and Barbara J. Commander of Woodstock; two brothers, Harry F. Baer of Riviera Beach, Fla., and George K. Baer of Norwell, Mass.; and three grandchildren.

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