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August Martin Wildberger, a retired Navy commander who specialized in computer education, died May 26.
August Martin Wildberger, a retired Navy commander who specialized in computer education, died May 26. (HANDOUT)

August Martin "Marty" Wildberger, a retired Navy commander who specialized in computer education, died of cancer May 26 at Paradise Valley Estates in Fairfield, Calif. The former Bowie resident was 86.

Born in Baltimore and raised on East 30th Street, he was the son of August M. Wildberger, a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. accountant and treasurer, andAlma Horstschneider. He attended the old St. Bernard School and was a 1948 graduate of Loyola High School at Blakefield.

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In a two-volume memoir, he recalled Baltimore winters when he skated on Lake Montebello and in Herring Run Park.

"We would start a quarter mile northeast of Montebello, duck under the Harford Road and on for about a mile, when were stopped at a large pipe going under Belair Road," he wrote of skating on the stream.

He recalled landing a job in the summer of 1946 at the Valencia Theatre on Lexington Street in downtown Baltimore. As an usher, he operated the 30-person elevators that took patrons up six flights to the 1,400-seat playhouse located over another film house, the Century. He said he learned to say, "no admission without a ticket" and how to soft-land the large elevator cabs on the ground floor.

Dr. Wilberger also recalled operating an optical cloud machine at the Valencia. The device projected imitation clouds on the theater's elaborate ceiling, which was inset with tiny electric stars. He said he memorized lines from "Duel in the Sun," a long-running hit film, and repeated them to elevator riders.

That fall, he and a schoolmate appeared at the Lyric Opera House's stage door on Mount Royal Avenue. "We were taken immediately to the stage managers and asked if we had acting experience," he wrote, adding that he lied that they had been in high school musicals.

He was cast as an extra in the opera "Rigoletto." "Along with three or four others, we became servants at the court of the Duke of Mantua. I passed through with a tray of fake hors d'oeuvres on the stage," he wrote in his memoir.

He met his future wife, Mary Elizabeth Welsh, while she was a Seton High School student. Both were members of their high school debate teams.

Dr. Wildberger earned a bachelor's degree at Fordham University.

"While he lived in New York, he enjoyed spending time at the Cedar Street Tavern and similar haunts, conversing with artists and writers including Frank O'Hara and Allen Ginsberg," said his daughter, Sara Wildberger, who lives in Washington. "He won the Fordham poetry competition twice, against students including G. Gordon Liddy and Charles Osgood."

He enlisted in the Navy and earned a master's degree at the Naval Postgraduate School of Engineering in Annapolis. He then served 23 years in the military and was stationed in San Diego and in China Lake, Calif., among other places.

He worked as an Airborne Combat Information Center officer. He also managed squadron and wing avionics maintenance.

According to his memoir, he later became a specialist in aerospace engineering, performing research, development and fleet engineering in the areas of electronic warfare, guided missiles and other weapons.

Of his career, Dr. Wildberger said, "My most satisfactory accomplishment was building an electronic warfare test range, which was copied in part for training purposes by all the services. My most discouraging was the endless task of making our airborne weapons work in Vietnam."

After returning to Maryland in 1965 and moving to the Pointer Ridge section of Bowie, he joined the faculties of Howard University and the University of Maryland, College Park. He earned a doctorate in education from the Catholic University of America in 1978.

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He became the chief computer scientist of General Physics Corp. in Columbia, where he worked for 12 years.

About 20 years ago, he moved to California, where he managed Mathematic and Information Science Research for the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto.

He later resided in Fairfield, Calif., and continued to consult and publish in professional journals on the topic of artificial intelligence. He also worked on his memoirs, and wrote and edited poetry.

The family is holding a private memorial service.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of nearly 60 years, a retired Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting media specialist; two sons, Stephen Wildberger of Petaluma, Calif., and Michael Wildberger of Kihei, Hawaii; two other daughters, Kate Cullen of Fort Worth, Texas. and Marta Graham of Brussels; nine grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

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