Milton Kolman, a fan and collector of vintage radio broadcasts who also was a longtime volunteer and docent at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, died of heart failure Tuesday at Atrium Village, an Owings Mills assisted-living facility. The former Pikesville resident was 89.
Mr. Kolman was born in Baltimore of immigrant parents from Hungary and Russia. He spent his early years above his parents' Francis Street grocery store, and as a teenager moved with the family to Reisterstown Road.
He left City College to work in his father's store, and at 21 opened Rutland Fine Foods at Rutland and Lafayette avenues.
In 1939, he married Rena Fleishman. They operated the store until World War II, when they sold it. Mr. Kolman enlisted in the Army and served in the infantry in the European and Pacific theaters.
"He was recently recognized by the French government for his role in the liberation of France," said his son, Dr. Ira H. Kolman, a Baltimore audiologist and Mount Washington resident.
After returning to Baltimore in 1946, Mr. Kolman opened Milton's Fine Foods in the 2400 block of McCulloh St., which he operated until 1953, when he became a Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. salesman. He briefly worked in New York City before returning to the grocery business in Baltimore.
"He worked six and a half days a week, and his store was a meeting place for neighbors," his son said. "He gave credit to customers and trusted everyone."
After his final store at Lafayette and Lanvale streets was burned during the 1968 rioting that followed the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Kolman became an appliance salesman at Montgomery Ward's Monroe Street store.
"He was one of the company's top salesman in the country, and he won many awards for his work," his son said. "He was a very friendly man, and people gravitated to him."
After his 1979 retirement, Mr. Kolman began volunteering at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, where he combined his love of early radio with his knowledge of the city's broadcasting and manufacturing heritage. He also assembled a large library of radio shows from the 1920s through the 1960s.
"He loved talking about the early days of radio and still had the brown table-top cathedral radio from his childhood. He also had an RCA Victor console radio," his son said.
"The role of Baltimore in the pioneering days of radio and television was important to him, particularly radio," said Carole B. Baker, the museum's deputy director.
Mr. Kolman enjoyed introducing museum visitors to such old-time radio classics as The Aldrich Family, Fibber McGee and Molly or The Romance of Helen Trent, while pointing out the thrill of listening to radio shows, serials and big-band broadcasts.
In recognition for his work, the museum's communications center is named the Milt Kolman Communications Gallery.
"He always lit up whenever he talked about the museum," Ms. Baker said. "He had a very outgoing personality."
Mr. Kolman was a board member and co-founder in 1972 of Golden Radio Buffs of Maryland and was also a member of the national radio buffs organization.
"We'd visit senior centers and re-create radio shows, and he really enjoyed being part of it," said Eugene G. Leitner, who was a co-founder of the Maryland chapter.
"He was a very warm and friendly person who had a great capacity for friendship," he said.
A Mason for more than 50 years, Mr. Kolman was a member of the organization's Warren, St. John's and Yedz Grotto lodges.
He was also a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Jewish Museum of Maryland.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville.
In addition to his wife of 67 years and his son, survivors include two grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.