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Blair P. Browne, port executive and longtime Lutherville resident, dies

Blair P. Browne, former owner and president of ship ceiling firm Waterfront Co. who later became vice president of the Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore, died April 28 at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson of complications from a fall. He was 93.

The son of Robert Benson Browne, founder of Waterfront Co., and Mable Schneider Browne, a homemaker, Blair P. Browne was born in Baltimore and boarded at the McDonogh School from 1931 until graduating in 1943.

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He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1943 and trained as a pilot. Mr. Browne was assigned to the 826th Bombardment Squadron in Italy, where he flew B-24 bombers on 35 missions to Germany and Czechoslovakia.

Discharged with the rank of lieutenant, his decorations included the Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation for Outstanding Performance of Duty, an Honorable Service lapel pin and the Good Conduct Medal.

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After obtaining a bachelor's degree in 1950 in mechanical engineering from what is now Carnegie Mellon University, he joined Waterfront Co., which his father had founded in 1924 at 800 S. Caroline St.; it later moved to 729 S. Eden St.

By 1945, the company was the largest of the the port's four ceiling companies — the firm built wooden cases and frames to hold shipboard cargo below decks in cargo holds or on deck from shifting during long ocean voyages. The company employed more than 600 men.

Ceiling was eventually replaced by containerization, and Mr. Browne closed the business in the 1960s.

Mr. Browne served as a vice president of the Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore from 1969 until his retirement in 1994. During his tenure with the association, he assisted in the computerization of its longshoreman payroll in the early 1970s.

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He was a faithful Red Cross blood donor and had earned a 30-gallon pin, family members said. He also taught CPR.

He was a life member of Maryland and D.C. Rifle and Pistol Association Inc. and the Maryland Antique Arms Collectors Association.

Mr. Browne was also a member of the Deutsche Geselligkeit — a German-American association devoted to helping the less fortunate — and was a lifetime member of the Silver Wings Fraternity, a nonprofit comprised of pilots who soloed more than 25 years ago, and also others interested in aviation.

He was a 32nd-degree Mason and a three-time past master of the Tuscan Lodge. At his death, he was the oldest-ever member of Court 82 of the Royal Order of Jesters, family members said.

The longtime Lutherville resident moved to Brightview Perry Hall in 2014.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. May 20 at Tuscan Lodge, 507 W. Chesapeake Ave., Towson.

He is survived by his wife of 66 years, the former Grace Shaw; three daughters, Virginia Browne-Martin and Holly Browne, both of Nottingham, and Cynthia Browne of Easton; and five grandchildren.

—Frederick N. Rasmussen

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