Charles J. Kirchner, 81, crane operator


Charles Joseph "Buck" Kirchner, a retired crane operator who enjoyed beekeeping and playing musical instruments, died of complications from an infection Tuesday at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air. The Glen Burnie resident was 81.

He was born in Baltimore and raised in Parkville, where he attended parochial schools. He began his career during the 1930s oiling construction cranes at an Arundel Corp. gravel pit in Southern Maryland.

"This was dangerous work. A snapped cable could cut a man in two," Mr. Kirchner wrote in an unpublished family memoir. "When I joined the union, my wages went from 75 cents to $1 an hour. That was good money."

In 1942, Mr. Kirchner enlisted in the Navy and became a boatswain's mate aboard LSTs and oil tankers in the Pacific. He participated in the Solomon Islands, New Guinea and Okinawa campaigns.

After the war, Mr. Kirchner became a crane operator with International Union of Operating Engineers Local 37. He retired in the mid-1980s.

"A lot of guys didn't like this type of work. An operator had a tremendous amount of responsibility. It was very easy to kill someone when you are moving tons of material at the end of a cable," he wrote in the memoir. "I lifted a lot of steel for the construction of buildings in the Baltimore area. I also helped dig the Baltimore subway and built breakwaters in the Chesapeake Bay."

In 1960, Mr. Kirchner joined his brother in establishing Rainbow Apiaries, supplying several types of honey to customers in the Baltimore area. He sold the business to a son in 1980.

A musician, Mr. Kirchner played the guitar, accordion, banjo, mandolin and keyboards. He also enjoyed raising racing pigeons and hunting with his hounds.

Mr. Kirchner was a member of the Rosedale post of Veterans of Foreign Wars and a communicant of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in Glen Burnie.

His wife of seven years, the former Carole M.A. Clooney, died in 1992. Two earlier marriages ended in divorce.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at noon today at Good Shepherd Roman Catholic Church, 1451 Furnace Ave., Glen Burnie.

Surviving are three sons, Jeffrey C. Kirchner of Jarrettsville, David G. Kirchner of Fallston and Michael B. Kirchner of Elkton; a daughter, Myra C. Watson of Delta, Pa.; a brother, Edward A. Kirchner of Abingdon; two sisters, Charlotte C. Ainsley of Abingdon and Mildred C. Coster of Street; a half-brother, Gerald E. Kirchner of Eldersburg; a stepbrother, Richard E. Parthree of Baltimore; a stepsister, Sharlene Thompson of Phoenix, Baltimore County; and 12 grandchildren.

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