Bernard J. 'B.J.' Land, Coca-Cola executive

Bernard J. "B.J." Land, a Coca-Cola executive and physical fitness buff who coached youth soccer and lacrosse teams, died Monday of a cardiac arrest at St. Joseph Medical Center. The Hunt Valley resident had recently celebrated his 53rd birthday.

Family members said that Mr. Land, who was known as "B.J.," had returned Sept. 2 after a long bike ride and suffered a cardiac arrest that was caused by coronary artery disease, which he was unaware that he suffered from. He remained in a coma until his death.

"If you wanted to pattern your life after someone, you'd point to B.J. He was a role model, not only at work but 24/7," said Steve P. Briggs, who had been Mr. Land's manager at Coca-Cola during his entire career.

"He was a terrific person to be around both inside and outside of work. B.J. had such great qualities, and his impact and emotional support on people is like nothing I've ever seen, and that was because of his personality. He impacted so many," said Mr. Briggs.

He said that Mr. Land had an "infectious passion for our business and loved calling on customers."

The son of a businessman and a homemaker, Bernard J. Land was born in Baltimore and raised in Stevenson.

Mr. Land was a 1978 graduate of St. Paul's School, where he played varsity lacrosse, football and wrestling. He was nominated for the Baltimore area's annual McCormick Unsung Hero Award.

"B.J. came to St. Paul's in the fourth grade, and we've been best friends since," said Ken Gore Jr. who lives in Phoenix, Baltimore County. "He was a natural leader and a natural athlete. If he didn't get 10 varsity letters at St. Paul's, then he got eight."

Mr. Land earned a bachelor's degree in political science in 1982 from the Johns Hopkins University, where he played varsity football and junior varsity lacrosse his freshman year and was a recipient of a Morris Goldseker Scholarship. After graduation, he went to work that year for Procter & Gamble as a salesman in its bar soap division.

Mr. Land worked in Baltimore and Atlanta, and in 1986, he went to work in sales for Minute Maid, which was later purchased by Coca-Cola.

He held sales assignments in Baltimore, Houston and Charlotte, N.C., until 1995, when he was transferred to Baltimore.

At his death, Mr. Land was vice president of Coca-Cola's national retail sales warehouse division in Baltimore.

"He was my direct boss and the best boss I ever had. He always made time for his employees and those in other divisions," said Jim Connell, director of sales for Coke in New York City.

"He was more of a friend to me than a boss. We did bike rides, marathons, skied and took family vacations together. We did century bike rides out of Salisbury or Delaware, and he was always the central guy who organized it," he said.

Mr. Land enjoyed coaching Lutherville-Timonium Recreation Council youth soccer — both girls and boys teams, family members said. He also was an avid Ravens fan and enjoyed tailgating at M&T Bank Stadium.

Mr. Land also enjoyed family vacations at Chilmark on Martha's Vineyard, where he was known for organizing touch football games with his brothers-in-law and their children.

"We didn't go this year because prior to two weeks when we would have gone, my father suffered a stroke," said his wife of 27 years, the former June Gorman. "He said that my parents would move into our home and we'd care for them. That exemplifies who B.J. was."

In an email, Jane Land Inman, his sister who lives in Cohasset, Mass., wrote that her brother often spoke "about being a strong individual, how important it was to face challenges and find the fortitude and strength to always do your best in life."

Mr. Land attended Mass at the Roman Catholic Community of St. Francis Xavier in Hunt Valley.

A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5300 N. Charles St.

In addition to his wife and sister, Mr. Land is survived by a son, Paul Wyatt Land, a sophomore at Bucknell University; a daughter, Fennelley "Fenn" Land, a junior at Garrison Forest School; a brother, James Land of Baltimore; and many nieces and nephews.