William R. 'Doc' Cronin

William Cronin, former owner of The Harford Democrat and Aberdeen Enterprise, died.

William R. "Doc" Cronin, former owner and publisher of The Harford Democrat and Aberdeen Enterprise newspapers who was also a benefactor to the Aberdeen Room Archives and Museum, died Friday at Hart Heritage Estates, a Forest Hill assisted-living facility, of complications from a stroke.

The former longtime Aberdeen resident was 93.

D. Bennett Smith Jr. began working for Mr. Cronin as a newsboy.

"He was a really nice gentleman and I started there when I was 13 and grew up in the business and obviously stuck around for 29 years," recalled Mr. Smith, who later became the paper's advertising manager. "When I was 15, I helped put the weekly together. I had to hand feed the papers through a folder, and then an Addressograph machine, and finally they were put in bags."

The son of John Wilmer Cronin, a former delegate and state senator, and Mary Sigourney Cronin, a longtime member of the state Board of Education, William Royall Cronin was born in Baltimore and raised in Aberdeen

He was a 1938 graduate of Aberdeen High School and also of the Tome School in Port Deposit.

"He got the name 'Doc" during his high school years when he'd run out onto the field with a small black bag and give an athlete a Band-Aid. So, it was a name he retained for the rest of his life," said his wife of 67 years, the former Charlotte Virginia Garretson, who writes a columnist for The Aegis.

Mr. Cronin began his college career at the Johns Hopkins University where he was an officer in the ROTC and, after attending class during the day, worked at night as a procurement officer at the old Glenn L. Martin Co. plant in Middle River.

He was drafted into the Army his senior year at Johns Hopkins and served from 1944 to 1946 as a personnel officer in the European Theater, where he attained the rank of lieutenant.

After the war, Mr. Cronin worked for his father who was the publisher and owner of The Harford Democrat and The Aberdeen Enterprise. His father had purchased The Aberdeen Enterprise in 1919 with W. Earle Jacobs. A few years later, the business partners purchased the Harford Democrat and consolidated the two newspapers in Aberdeen.

"His father started him working in the pressroom and then as a reporter and photographer and he moved right up," said Mrs. Cronin. "He knew both the mechanical and editorial side of the business."

"A retired Aberdeen policeman remembered Doc showing up at every crime scene in an old station wagon," said his daughter-in-law, Becky Brasington Clark. "The police always granted him access, and nicknamed him 'Flash Cronin' because he was always taking pictures."

After graduating from Hopkins in 1950, he earned a law degree in 1951 from the University of Baltimore Law School. He had been a member of the Maryland State Bar for 64 years.

In 1957, the business was incorporated as Harford Press Inc. and later moved to 4 S. Parke St. in Aberdeen, where four days a week the business was commercial printing.

"And then for three days of the week all panic broke out as father and son put the paper together," said Mr. Smith who lives in Aberdeen. "Bill worked so many hours that it was difficult for him to have a life. He had a very long working day and put in a tremendous amount of time."

"He was pretty tough to work for but I learned a lot from him," said his son, John Cronin, of Baltimore, who worked with his father during high school and summers while in college.

"He led the conversion of the newspaper from hot metal and Linotype machines to offset composition," said his son, who is design and production manager at the Johns Hopkins University Press.

From 1972 to 1973, Mr. Cronin was president of the Maryland/Delaware/DC Press Association and had been a member of the board of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers Association.

"The Harford Democrat and Aberdeen Enterprise won a bunch of awards for articles and advertising," said Mr. Smith, who left the paper in 1982 when it was sold.

After the death of his father in 1982, the paper was sold to the Susquehanna Publishing Co. of Havre de Grace and later merged with the Havre de Grace Record.

Mr. Cronin spent the next 18 years in asphalt paving and cutting. From 1982 to 1987, he was an attorney for the Baltimore Asphalt Paving Co. In 1984, he established C-Saw, a construction company that specialized in cutting and preparing pavement prior to repaving. He retired in 2000.

In his retirement, he joined the staff of the Aberdeen Room Archives and Museum that had been founded by his wife in 1987, and where he designed and furnished the museum.

"He donated 25 file cabinets from the newspaper and some 25,000 photos and continued to be a benefactor to the museum," said Mrs. Cronin.

He also joined the crusade that was led by the Historical Society of Harford County and the Aberdeen Room Archives and Museum that resulted in sparing the old Baltimore & Ohio Railroad station in Aberdeen from the wrecking ball.

The Queen Anne-style station that dates to 1885 and was moved 50-feet back from CSX's busy Washington-Philadelphia mainline onto a new foundation, will undergo restoration.

"By that time, Doc was in the hospital following a number of small strokes," said Ms. Clark. "Though he was heartened by the news that the station had finally been moved, he never got to see it."

The longtime resident of Mount Royal Avenue in Aberdeen, Mr. Cronin was presented with awards throughout his life, some of which included the Archer Fellow Award from the Historical Society of Harford County in 2010 and the Citizenship Award from the Aberdeen Rotary Club in 2013.

Plans for a memorial society are incomplete.

In addition to his wife, son and daughter-in-law, Mr. Cronin is survived by his daughter, Cheryl Levitan of Visalia, Calif; a sister, Anne Cronin Keith of Melbourne, Fla.; and two grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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