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Douglas G. Tilton, co-founder of sports apparel company, dies

Douglas G. Tilton was a co-founder of sports apparel manufacturer Open Air Wear and the author of a handbook that was distributed to patients’ families at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
Douglas G. Tilton was a co-founder of sports apparel manufacturer Open Air Wear and the author of a handbook that was distributed to patients’ families at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. (Baltimore Sun)

Douglas G. Tilton, a co-founder of sports apparel manufacturer Open Air Wear and the author of a handbook that was distributed to patients' families at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, died Sept. 4 of colon cancer at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson.

The Parkville resident was 61.

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The son of Kenneth L. Tilton, a Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone troubleshooter, and Jane Tilton, a Hutzler's department store associate, Douglas George Tilton was born in Baltimore and was raised on Parktowne Road in Parkville.

After graduating in 1972 from Parkville High School, where he had been an outstanding varsity pitcher, Mr. Tilton earned an associate's degree from Community College of Baltimore County's Essex campus. He also attended Towson University.

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In 1982, Mr. Tilton and his companion, Cathy Jacobs, established Out of the Woods, a butcher block furniture company located in Timonium.

The company grew to 25 employees and had showrooms at Eudowood Plaza shopping center, Harford Mall and Jumpers Mall.

"They produced first-rate butcher block furniture. They started with raw material and handled every aspect of the building process, including straight to the customer," said Kirk McCleary, a friend of 61 years who lives in Phoenix, Baltimore County.

The couple sold the business in 1989, and four years later, founded Open Air Wear in Butler.

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"We both enjoyed the outdoors and outdoor sports, and it was at a time that Patagonia started making outdoor products and more and more people were going outdoors," said Ms. Jacobs, his life partner of 36 years.

"At the time, we thought we'd start a mail-order company making fleece jackets and vests. We never really did that and started using new fabrics like Polartec. We were licensed to use Gore Windstopper fabrics and new moisture-wicking fabrics," she said. "Our focus was making customized high-performance apparel. This is the road we took."

Mr. Tilton, was the company's sales and marketing manager, while Ms. Jacobs oversaw production of its core product line used by those participating in snow sports, water sports and mountaineering.

They also produced equipment used by mountain resorts, ski and snowboard schools, ski patrols and mountain operations, as well as sailing wear.

Their products were used at such Colorado resorts as Vale, Aspen and Telluride.

One of their first customers when they started the business was the Chessie Sailing team. The team participated in what was then the Whitbread Round the World Race, which in 2001 became the Volvo Ocean Race. They also outfitted the Naval Academy's offshore racing team.

After being seriously injured in a 1989 bicycling accident, Ms. Jacobs was transported to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where she spent more than five weeks recovering.

"Doug was so moved by the care they gave Cathy and saving her life, he wanted to give back," said Mr. McCleary.

He wrote a free handbook given to families whose relatives were being treated at Shock Trauma, an experence he described in the book's introduction as "overwhelming."

"From the moment you are contacted, there is a feeling of disbelief — you are stunned," he wrote in its preface. "Without warning, you are suddenly in a new situation where so much is happening so quickly; yet you find yourself waiting, waiting, waiting. You have many questions and don't know what to expect."

Mr. Tilton relied on his experiences and information from Shock Trauma personnel for the guide, which helped relatives deal with their anxieties while also dispensing useful information, such as what to expect after a patient is admitted, how to have mail delivered to them, and what services were available to families.

"My intent is to help you better understand the system here and to know that the trauma center's policies (some of which may seem harsh to you) were all developed with the patient's welfare in mind," he wrote.

"He began taking notes in the middle of the night of my first day there," said Ms. Jacobs. Mr. Tilton also found eight business sponsors who agreed to help him produce the book, which was published in 1991, she said.

"This brochure was conceived and created by a patient's loved one, who, like you, had many questions and concerns during the patient's stay," Dr. James P.G. "Seamus" Flynn, who was then director of Shock Trauma, wrote in the guide.

Mr. Tilton enjoyed performing with two local bands, Weeds Over Woodstock and Jamie and the Soulmakers, for which he was the lead singer.

He was an extra in the 1993 movie "Gettysburg," acting as a Union artilleryman, and was taught how to fire a cannon.

He was a long-distance bicyclist who once rode 300 miles in 24 hours during the Race Across America. He also ran and finished the annual Marine Corps Marathon, was an accomplished cross country skier and a golfer, and played on several local fast-pitch softball teams.

Mr. Tilton was an aficionado of vintage cars and owned a 1958 190SL Mercedes-Benz coupe and a 1966 Pontiac GTO whose motor he rebuilt.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at St. John's Lutheran Church, 8808 Harford Road, Parkville.

In addition to Ms. Jacobs, he is survived by his mother, Jane Tilton of Parkville; a brother, Kenneth L. Tilton Jr. of White Marsh; and a nephew.

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