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Charles 'Charlie' Oberman, longtime usher at Baltimore sports venues, dies

Charles "Charlie" Oberman was a supervisory usher at the Baltimore Civic Center, now <a href="http://events.baltimoresun.com/venues/1st-mariner-arena-baltimore">Royal Farms Arena</a>, for 50 years and also ushered at Camden Yards and Memorial Stadium.
Charles "Charlie" Oberman was a supervisory usher at the Baltimore Civic Center, now Royal Farms Arena, for 50 years and also ushered at Camden Yards and Memorial Stadium. (Handout / Baltimore Sun)

Charles "Charlie" Oberman, who was a supervisory usher at the Baltimore Civic Center, now Royal Farms Arena, for 50 years and also ushered at Camden Yards and Memorial Stadium, died Jan. 23 of congestive heart failure at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. He was 96.

"I have a love of the arena, and Charlie certainly had that. He epitomized that," said Frank W. Remesch, general manager of Royal Farms Arena, who began working events at the venue with Mr. Oberman in 1988.

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"He was the constant salesman of this facility. He was its PR man and loved giving lollipops to kids, talking to people and walking around the arena. He was just a beautiful gentleman," he said.

Mark J. Donald, Mr. Oberman's son-in-law and a resident of Lakeland, Fla., recalled that a Baltimore Magazine article once called Mr. Oberman "Iron Man" because "like Cal Ripken, he never missed anything at the Civic Center for over 50 years."

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The son of Abraham Oberman, a United States Industrial Alcohol Co. maintenance worker, and Sophie Oberman, a homemaker, Charles Oberman was born in Baltimore and raised on East Eager Street.

He attended City College and enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1942. He served in the Aleutian Islands as a supply clerk until being discharged in 1945.

After the end of World War II, Mr. Oberman worked in outside sales for a food broker until becoming a letter carrier at the Arlington, Va., post office in 1972. He held the job for 17 years, retiring in 1989.

Meanwhile, Mr. Oberman had become a well-known figure to Orioles fans at the old Memorial Stadium, where he began ushering in 1954. For 40 years, he ushered down the left field line in Sections 70 and 72.

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"When the Orioles moved to Camden Yards, Charlie was one of five ushers who were asked to transfer there," said Mr. Donald.

Mr. Oberman, who lived in the Millbrook neighborhood of Northwest Baltimore, worked at Camden Yards from 1992 until 1998, his son-in-law said.

"It makes me feel proud that people want to come back year after year to be in my section at Camden Yards, and that I am part of some of the best memories of many children's lives," Mr. Oberman told Baltimore Magazine in a 2000 profile.

"I know this because of how people greet me — the kisses, hugs and handshakes from children and from adults, many that I first met when they were small children," he said.

His longest tenure as an usher was at the Civic Center. He was working the turnstiles and aisles from opening night, Oct. 23, 1962, until stopping several months ago.

Over the years, he was there for scores of Clippers, Blast, Bullets and Skipjacks games, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus performances, celebrity appearances, concerts and high school graduations.

"If you are afraid of crowds, this is not the job to have," Mr. Oberman told The Baltimore Sun in a 1992 article.

"I love the adrenaline of being at a game. If I can get up and usher, run up and down the stairs, then I can live another day," Mr. Oberman said in the Baltimore Magazine profile. "My spirit gets younger from being with the crowds, and I'm in great shape. Older people tell me that I inspire them."

"Charlie was here from day one and had such dedication," said Mr. Remesch. "We do 130 events a year, and he was here for all of them, and he was still doing it when he was in his 90s."

Mr. Oberman was on hand when the Beatles arrived for two performances Sept. 13, 1964, and when Judy Garland sang there four years later. When the Jackson 5 performed Aug., 5, 1973, Mr. Oberman was on the job, and when Elvis Presley performed May 29, 1977 — just 10 weeks before his death — he was there.

"You can go through the entire list of shows, and he didn't miss any of them. He said the girls were in the aisles screaming so loudly that he saw the Beatles but did not hear them," said Mr. Donald.

"He loved Nat King Cole, and one of his favorite stars, Judy Garland, was drunk when she did the show. He even liked country acts like Martina McBride," he said.

Mr. Oberman used the strength of his personality and powers of persuasion when dealing with difficult situations.

"If fans are drunk, I don't want to get them excited. I speak to everyone, drunk or sober, in a polite way, with respect," said Mr. Oberman in the magazine article. "I tell them that there are children here, that this is a family place, and if there is trouble, they will be escorted out by the police. I usually give drunks two warnings — there is no such thing as a third warning."

Mr. Oberman was sanguine about his profession and the thrill of spending an evening with 40,000 fans at Camden Yards.

"Other teams, in first place, get 20,000 fans," he told Baltimore Magazine. "Something or some people must be making a difference — maybe it's the ushers."

Funeral services for Mr. Oberman were held Jan. 31 at Sol Levinson & Bros. in Pikesville.

In addition to his son-in-law, he is survived by a son, Stuart J. Oberman of Loganville, Ga.; a daughter, Sharon Oberman Donald of Lakeland, Fla.; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. His wife of 63 years, the former Rose Adelman, died in 2009.

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