Charles L. Schelberg, bank president, dies

Charles L. Schelberg

Charles L. Schelberg, a retired Eastern Shore banker and a World War II veteran who served with the Navy in the Pacific, died June 19 of pneumonia at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson.

The Queenstown resident was 86.

Mr. Schelberg was born in Wilmington, Del., and raised in Towson, where he graduated in 1942 from Towson High School.

He attended Washington College for a year before enlisting in the Navy in 1943.

Mr. Schelberg was a seaman assigned to the destroyer escort USS Abercrombie, where he was a member of an anti-aircraft gun crew and performed damage-control duties.

"The primary mission of the Abercrombie was to guard larger ships against air and submarine attack. As a crewman aboard the ship, he fought against the Japanese at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, and during the Okinawa naval campaign of April to June 1945," said his son, Charles B. Schelberg, a Baltimore lawyer who lives in Riderwood.

"He rarely spoke about his wartime experiences except when questioned about it by his grandchildren," his son said.

"During the fighting in the waters off Okinawa, the Abercrombie performed picket duty to spot and shoot down Japanese kamikaze planes flying suicide missions against U.S. aircraft carriers," his son said. "He recounted that during one attack, a Japanese plane flew so low over the ship that from his gun station, he was able to look into the cockpit and clearly see the face of the Japanese pilot."

Discharged from the Navy in 1946, Mr. Schelberg returned to Washington College, where he studied on the GI Bill of Rights and earned a bachelor's degree in economics in 1949.

Because he was from a family of Eastern Shore watermen, Mr. Schelberg worked summers after the war on the family fishing boat, hauling nets and taking the catches to market in Baltimore.

"These fishing expeditions would frequently involve weeklong trips on the Chesapeake Bay," his son said.

Mr. Schelberg's banking career began one day in 1950, when he found himself sitting on a park bench next to a director of the Queenstown Bank of Maryland.

The man said he was retiring and asked Mr. Schelberg if he'd like his job. A few days later, Mr. Schelberg went from being unemployed to cashier of the bank, supervising four other employees.

In 1959, he joined Farmers National Bank in Annapolis, and in 1971, became the bank's 10th president and chief executive officer.

Farmers National, the oldest bank in Anne Arundel County, was founded in 1805 with assets of $51,856, and its first president was John Muir, a Revolutionary War veteran.

During Mr. Schelberg's tenure, he led the transformation of Farmers National Bank from a small local institution to an expanded bank holding company with three bank subsidiaries and offices in Anne Arundel County and the Eastern Shore.

"His core banking principles were customer service, support of local businesses and entrepreneurs, and promotion of diversity in hiring and promotion," his son said.

In 1992, the Better Retirement Report recognized Farmers National Bank as "one of the strongest banks in the U.S. for depositors."

In the early 1990s, Mr. Schelberg stepped down from day-to-day operation of the bank but remained as chairman of Farmers National Bancorp of Annapolis, the bank's holding company.

At the time of its sale in 1994 to First Virginia Bank, when Mr. Schelberg retired, Farmers National had assets of $709 million and 15 offices in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County.

Jim Edwards, a retired pharmacist, had been a member of the Farmers National Bank board.

"Charlie was an amazing banker, an exceptionally smart man, and had a memory like an elephant. He never forgot anything. People who listened to him and stayed with the bank did well," said Mr. Edwards, who lives in Centreville.

"If Charlie made up his mind on something, no one was going to change it. And he was right 95 percent of the time," he said.

He was a former treasurer and director of Anne Arundel General Hospital and had been a director of the Anne Arundel Agency for Assisted Living, Anne Arundel United Way and the Anne Arundel County Trade Council Inc.

He also had been president of the Annapolis Kiwanis Club and the Annapolitan Club, and had served as a director and treasurer of the Annapolis Yacht Club.

In 2007, Mr. Schelberg was interviewed by Newsweek magazine for an article on the GI Bill.

His father had died while he was away during the war, leaving family finances in a precarious state.

"It was like pennies from heaven," Mr. Schelberg said in the interview.

An Annapolis resident since 1959, Mr. Schelberg later retired to his old family home in Queenstown that overlooks a tributary of the Chester River, where he was able to indulge his passion for crabbing and gardening.

A gregarious man, Mr. Schelberg was also an enthusiastic card player and enjoyed bridge, gin rummy and poker.

It wasn't uncommon for Mr. Schelberg to read three newspapers a day, family members said.

He was a member of St. Luke's Episcopal Chapel, 7208 Main St., Queenstown, where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday.

Also surviving are his wife of 59 years, the former Jane H. Booker; three daughters, Meredith S. Boyle of Towson, Kathryn S. Townshend of Arlington, Va., and Blanche S. Niederberger of Centreville; and nine grandchildren.