Ernest F. Ohler, who worked at Black & Decker for nearly 70 years, died of cancer Friday at his home in Rodgers Forge. He was 97.
Mr. Ohler had little formal education but he schooled himself in engineering as well as marine electronics, cartography and boating safety.
"He could plot maritime courses anywhere from Baltimore without a calculator, and it was always accurate," said his son, Theodore E. Ohler of Fallston.
Mr. Ohler, who was known as Ernie, earned a captain's license from the Coast Guard when he was 85 and maintained it well into his 90s, scoring 100 on his last qualifying written test. He also taught marine safety and boating courses.
"He took a brutal open-book test to maintain his license," said Theodore Ohler. "He really was a lifelong learner who wanted to learn everything he could."
Mr. Ohler left school at age 16 to help support his family and soon began working for Black & Decker when the tool manufacturing firm was located on Calvert Street. He moved with the company when it located its corporate headquarters in Towson.
"He worked with the engineers and helped design production lines," said his daughter, Patricia O. Hoffman of Lutherville.
Born in Long Green, he attended elementary grades at the parish school of St. John Catholic Church in Hydes, where he was a lifelong member. While raising his family, he earned his high school diploma by taking night classes at Polytechnic Institute.
After retiring in 1974, he continued to work with Black & Decker as a consultant, helping to establish plants in Canada and Mexico. He then worked until he was 90 to raise funds for the United Way from Black & Decker employees.
"He was always active," said his son. "He wanted to keep his mind working and sharp."
Much of Mr. Ohler's spare time was consumed with fishing. He made his own rods and loved to troll the Chesapeake Bay for rockfish. Mr. Ohler taught his grandchildren and great-grandchildren how to fish and often gave them rods of his own making.
His grandson Theo Ohler of Salisbury recalled a childhood filled with many early-morning fishing trips.
"He helped fan that ember for me," the grandson said, "and I am still fishing."
Mr. Ohler took his last fishing trip about three years ago off Ocean City with two other seniors. The trio posed for the cameras with their catches. A photo of that excursion was published in Coastal Fisherman magazine with a caption that read "Youngsters out fishing."
He was married for 45 years to the former Sophie C. Gengnagel. When she became ill with Alzheimer's disease, he cared for her the last 14 years of her life. She died in 1981.
"He was determined to keep her at home," said his daughter. "It meant he had to change his whole lifestyle, and he did."
A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated 10 a.m. today at St. John Catholic Church, 13305 Long Green Pike.
Additional survivors include a brother, James Ohler of Glen Arm; a sister, Delores DeFilippi of Glen Arm; three granddaughters; and six great-grandchildren.