Luther E. Horine Jr., a pyrotechnist who entertained thousands for more than two decades with fireworks displays at the Inner Harbor, Camden Yards, Fort McHenry and the Washington Monument, died of cancer Saturday at his Walkersville home. He was 68.
Mr. Horine was born in Frederick and raised in Walkersville. He was a 1958 graduate of Walkersville High School and earned a bachelor's degree in forestry at Pennsylvania State University in 1963.
He was employed for 35 years in the environmental health division of the Frederick County Health Department until retiring in 2000.
He was co-owner of T.R. Saylor Hardware, a family-owned Walkersville business.
However, Mr. Horine's real passion was fireworks, which began in the 1940s when he helped his father stage small Fourth of July fireworks shows in Walkersville.
In a 1987 profile in The Sun, Mr. Horine said his mother told him not to play with fireworks.
"I just didn't listen very well," he said.
Since 1975, Mr. Horine has been a pyrotechnist, or shooter, for Zambelli Internationale Fireworks Manufacturing Co. The New Castle, Pa., company is one of the largest makers of fireworks in the nation.
"He has been associated with the company for 54 years and was our Maryland representative," said Michael Richards, vice president of operations for Zambelli.
"Anything that took place in Baltimore, Luther personally organized. He derived great pleasure out of doing fireworks and making people happy," he said.
Mr. Richards said Mr. Horine's last major production was the annual Inner Harbor July Fourth celebration.
"He battled cancer for years, but he never let that stop him," Mr. Richards said.
Mr. Horine's platform for the July Fourth and New Year's Eve spectaculars was a barge with a sand-covered deck, anchored in the Inner Harbor.
From that deck, he pushed buttons on an electronic control box that ignited the 1 1/2 tons of explosives required for the 20-minute show that resulted in colorful flashes of light, swirling smoke and thunderous roars that echoed off nearby buildings.
"There's that smell of gunpowder and sulphur," Mr. Horine told The Sun in 1995. "There's a tremendous amount of noise. You're keeping yourself alert for things, like a shell that may go off."
Other duties included setting off each blast to accompany such music as "God Bless America," "Stars and Stripes Forever," Rossini's "Wlliam Tell Overture" and Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture."
"He was an incredibly tough person and hard-working person. It is really tough work, and he so enjoyed it," said Bill Gilmore, executive director of Baltimore Promotion and the Arts.
"Luther was our safety net. The New Year's Eve celebration is one of our biggest events, and so much can go wrong," Mr. Gilmore said. "But I knew with Luther on the fireworks barge we'd be OK."
Roz Healy of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts said she worked with Mr. Horine for 23 years.
"He had a handshake that would bring you to your knees. He was so strong," Ms. Healy said. "He was a quiet, funny man who was a great jokester."
Ms. Healy said the weather forecast was always a concern as New Year's Eve drew near.
"I knew he'd make it happen, and he did the show in all kinds of weather. Only one time in 23 years was he unable to do a New Year's Eve show," she said. "We had a monsoon and the rain was so heavy you couldn't see the buildings across the harbor, so we had to cancel. But that was the only time."
Mr. Horine directed fireworks displays at several presidential inaugurations as well as the annual Walkersville Volunteer Fireman's Carnival.
For years, he traveled to Kuwait each February to put on a half-show that marked the country's Independence Day.
In the 1995 article, Mr. Horine said that his love of fireworks didn't always make his family happy, because he often wasn't home for holidays or to help celebrate his wife's July 2 birthday.
"That always puts me in the doghouse," he said.
Ms. Healy said before this year's New Year's Eve fireworks show, there will be a 21-fireworks salute in honor of Mr. Horine's years of service to the city.
Mr. Horine had served in the Maryland National Guard and was a member of the Walkersville Volunteer Fire Department.
He enjoyed farming and raising beef cattle.
He was a member of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Walkersville, where services were held Tuesday. He was interred in Glade Cemetery.
"Luther requested fireworks at his funeral and we did that to honor him. It was our tribute," Mr. Richards said.
Surviving are his wife of 45 years, the former Patricia Krzysko; a son, Luke Horine of Frederick; two daughters, Gretchen Horine Smith of Thurmont and Heidi Horine of Frederick; a sister, Lois Poffenbarger of Thurmont; and two granddaughters.