Richard A. Hartman, CEO of Automobile Club of Md.

Richard A. Hartman, former president and CEO of the Automobile Club of Maryland who fought at the Battle of the Bulge, died Feb. 28 of complications from cancer and renal failure at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. The former longtime Cedarcroft resident was 91.

"Dick was the most ethical person I have ever known. He did everything that was right, and he demanded that out of the people who worked with him. He was truly a wonderful person," said William U. "Bill" Bass, who succeeded Mr. Hartman as president of the Automobile Club of Maryland when he retired in 1987.

The son of Willard Hartman and Nellie Spence Hartman, who were Maryland Casualty Co. workers, Richard Allen Hartman was born at the old St. Joseph Hospital on Caroline Street in East Baltimore.

He moved with his family in 1926 to a home on 33rd Street and later to Rosebank Avenue in Govans, where he was raised.

After graduating from Loyola High School in 1940, he attended night school at the Johns Hopkins University, where he studied English. He worked during the day as a timekeeper at the old Glenn L. Martin Co. plant in Middle River.

"As the war progressed and more and more people were being called into the service, I began feeling guilty about just working there at Glenn Martin's," Mr. Hartman related in "A Baltimore Boy's Life," an unpublished memoir.

"I remember going into a Marine recruiting office down on Greenmount Avenue in Waverly and talking to them about enlisting in the Marines. And I don't know whether they tested my eyes or asked me about my vision, and I was wearing glasses at the time and they told me my eyesight would not meet their standards," said Mr. Hartman.

He launched a campaign of eating carrots and read a book, "Sight Without Glasses," which contained ocular exercises.

"I did the exercises but still to no avail. I was not able to bring my eyes up to the level required by the Marines and Air Force," he recalled.

Mr. Hartman was 20 when he was drafted into the Army in 1943, and after training, joined the 590th Field Artillery Battalion of the 106th Infantry Division, where he served in Europe as a staff sergeant.

As German forces gathered in the Ardennes for a final Western offensive in late 1944, Mr. Hartman found himself swept up in the furious fighting of the Battle of the Bulge, which raged from Dec. 16, 1944, to the end of January 1945, when the stranglehold along a front that extended for 60 miles was finally broken.

At the Bulge, Mr. Hartman was taken prisoner by the Germans.

"He was a POW for six months, surviving unbearable winter cold, a 'death march' in snow to the German prison, hepatitis contracted while in the prison camp, and near-starvation there until he was released at the end of the war in Europe," said a daughter, Claire T. Hartman of Monkton.

"We chatted about his being a POW, and he wasn't reluctant to talk about it," said Jack Eck, a friend and co-worker who lives in Stoneleigh. "He talked about ... being held in the basement of a building. He went back years later, and the German owner was still there."

Ms. Hartman said that a commendation on one of her father's decorations read that he "participated in, endured, and survived the greatest land battle, the Battle of the Bulge, ever fought and won by the United States Army."

"He remained scrupulously humble about the experience until his dying day," Ms. Hartman said. "On his 90th birthday, he received letters from President [Barack] Obama, the secretary of defense, Sen. [Barbara] Mikulski, Supreme Court Justice [John Paul] Stevens and others congratulating him on his milestone and thanking him for his heroism as a POW in World War II. He was moved by the letters, but underplayed his heroism by saying, 'I guess all you have to do to be a hero is get yourself captured.' "

After being discharged, Mr. Hartman attended what is now Loyola University Maryland on the GI Bill of Rights and earned a bachelor's degree in 1948 in English.

He worked briefly in the advertising department of the Gunther Brewing Co. until taking a job in the fall of 1948 with what was then the Automobile Club of Maryland as director of traffic safety.

Mr. Hartman rose through the ranks until being named president and CEO in 1972 of both the Automobile Club of Maryland and the AAA Insurance Agency. During his tenure as president and CEO, the organization's membership tripled.

"Dick was truly a wonderful person and always very considerate of others. He was very outgoing and loved to travel," recalled Mr. Bass. "He was a great AAA convention-goer. He was a man who really enjoyed life."

Mr. Eck, who worked with Mr. Hartman when he was at AAA's national headquarters, said Mr. Hartman was "interested in all aspects of the organization."

"He was certainly well-known and well-liked throughout the AAA organization and served on many national committees," said Mr. Eck. "He was very interested in computerization, which was a new medium in those days. He was one of the first folks in AAA to have a computer behind his desk."

Mr. Hartman was treasurer of the Safety Council of Maryland and president of the Baltimore Public Relations Council and the Maryland Travel Council.

He was active in affairs of the Roman Catholic Church and served as president of the parish council at St. Mary's of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church, where he was treasurer of its school board and an Eucharistic minister.

He was a longtime member of the Country Club of Maryland, where he had been a board member and inveterate golfer, scoring two holes-in-one when he was 75.

Four years ago, Mr. Hartman moved to the Pickersgill retirement community in West Towson and became president of the residents association.

His wife of 61 years, the former Claire Cullinan, died in 2010.

Mr. Hartman was a communicant and had been a Eucharistic minister at St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church, 6428 York Road, Rodgers Forge, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 9 a.m. Saturday.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Hartman is survived by his son, Richard A. Hartman Jr. of Media, Pa.; three other daughters, Elise Hartman Ford and Mary Louise Hartman Sloan, both of Chevy Chase, and Suzanne W. Hartman of Towson; a brother, Willard A. Hartman of Wilmette, Ill.; eight grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

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