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Charles B. Reeves Jr.

Charles B. Reeves Jr.
Charles Reeves, shown in 2013, was Guilford's oldest living resident. He had resided there in the same house since 1923. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun)

Charles B. "Sprat" Reeves Jr., a retired attorney and philanthropist recalled as a charming raconteur, died of congestive heart failure Saturday at Gilchrist Hospice Care. He was 92 and lived in Guilford.

Born in Baltimore — he lived his entire life on Greenway — he was the son of Charles B. Reeves Sr., who was born in Mount Vernon Place, and Emily Fitzgerald Kenny, who lived on Eutaw Place. The couple had adjoining pews at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, where Mr. Reeves was a lifelong member. His father owned an insurance agency and his mother's family owned the C.D. Kenny coffee and tea stores.

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He attended the Calvert and Gilman schools and was a graduate of the Canterbury School in New Milford, Conn. His studies at Princeton University, where he was on the staff of the Daily Princetonian, were interrupted by his World War II service in the Army. He served in the field artillery and was a pilot. A first lieutenant, he was stationed in Japan.

After the war, he completed his bachelor's degree at Princeton. He was a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law.

He joined the firm of Cross & Shriver in 1951 and was an assistant attorney general from 1957 to 1959. In 1961, he joined what was then Venable, Baetjer and Howard and remained until his retirement in 1993. He worked in trusts and estates and in securities law.

Friends said that Mr. Reeves traveled so much and so enthusiastically, he never really unpacked. He climbed numerous mountains, including the Matterhorn, and was a member of the Arlberg Ski Club in St. Anton, Austria. Colleagues said he returned to Baltimore with photographs and hours' worth of stories.

"Everybody loved him. Charlie would come home from a trip and hold a seminar in the board room," said George Johnston, a former Venable law partner. "He was down-to-earth, funny, clever and completely unpretentious. A lot more people attended his talks than they did partners' meetings."

Colleagues recalled his enthusiastic speaking, formal dress — he shopped at a grocery store attired in neat but bright tweeds — and his twinkling eyes that seemed to mask a schoolboy's mischievous intent.

"He could show you a Mongolian village and you felt as if you were there," said John Henry Lewin, a retired Venable colleague. "As a fox hunter, he had fallen off every horse in Baltimore County and if he broke a rib, he'd say, 'Well, it was just one.'"

Mr. Reeves served on the board and held the offices of secretary, president and chairman of the James Lawrence Kernan Hospital near Dickeyville from 1959 to 1996. He was instrumental in establishing the hospital's affiliation with the University of Maryland Medical System. Mr. Reeves also donated $1 million to the institution.

"Sprat Reeves was our 'Downton Abbey' figure," said Venable attorney C. Carey Deeley Jr. "He was filled with dignity and grace. I've never known anyone who seemed more like royalty."

Mr. Reeves was also a donor to the restoration of the Basilica of the Assumption. He funded the cleaning of three 19th-century paintings by Constantino Brumidi at St. Ignatius in Mount Vernon, where he also created an art gallery. In 2011, he gave much of the money for a $475,000 restoration of an 1860 pipe organ at St. Ignatius. He made the gift in the names of his aunts, Roman Catholic nuns who had nursed the indigent sick and taught young women. He also requested that Gounod's "Messe Solennelle" be played at the first service after the restoration.

"Charles was a unique individual. He was one of a kind," said his pastor, the Rev. William Watters, S.J. "He was deeply loved by all and was highly regarded. He could fill a room with his humanity. He thoroughly enjoyed people and was always interested in them."

Father Watters said Mr. Reeves argued convincingly to save the parish when church authorities considered its closure nearly 45 years ago.

"We owe a lot to Charles when he was president of the parish council," said Father Watters. "He remonstrated with the Jesuit provincial and he made the case to keep the church open."

An art collector, Mr. Reeves donated his numerous paintings to the Calvert School. He also supported the Handel Choir.

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At his death, he was the longest-tenured resident of Guilford in North Baltimore, having resided in his parents' home for all but brief periods in his life.

"Guilford is rife with history," he said in a 2013 Baltimore Sun article about the neighborhood's centennial. He recalled that his neighbor was restaurant owner William Haussner and his wife, Frances. Mr. Reeves spoke of his aunt, Ella Reeves Klotworthy, who lived in the family home and was an Old Bay Line executive.

Mr. Reeves wrote several volumes of memoirs. In his 1999 work, "Carpe Diem," he advised: "Live your life so that whatever you lose, you are ahead."

A funeral Mass will be offered at 10:30 a.m. July 8 at St. Ignatius Church, 740 N. Calvert St.

Survivors include three nephews, Samuel Peter Reeves of Andover, Mass., Charles D'Orsey Reeves of Fulshear, Texas, and Cornelius David Reeves of Princeton; and a niece, Emily Kenny Reeves, also of Princeton.

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