Edward Owen “Bud” McNicholas Jr. was close to his brothers, especially Richard McNicholas, who was four years younger. Their affection, however, took a back seat once when they took a faceoff against each other in a lacrosse game with the older brother representing the Mount Washington club team and the younger one playing for the University of Maryland.
So who gained the upper hand? It’s a mystery.
“They each said they won,” said Jeanne McNicholas Stringer, Edward McNicholas' elder daughter. “Neither of them would say which one won.”
Mr. McNicholas, who starred as an attackman for Johns Hopkins University and Mount Washington and then became president and CEO of an engineering firm, died Sept. 6 of Alzheimer’s disease at Candle Light Cove, an assisted living facility in Easton. He was 89.
William Stellmann had known Mr. McNicholas since they were freshmen at Johns Hopkins. They joined the same fraternity (Alpha Delta Phi), eventually becoming roommates and played for the lacrosse team.
“He was the best friend I’ve ever had,” Mr. Stellmann said. “I never saw him get upset unless the [Baltimore] Colts lost or something like that. Things just didn’t seem to bother him, and he always had the right answer for everything. He was just a real nice guy.”
The eldest of three sons born to and raised by the former Kathleen Miller and Edward Owen McNicholas Sr., Mr. McNicholas grew up in Sparrows Point, playing football and baseball before concentrating on lacrosse at Sparrows Point High School.
Mr. McNicholas was so well-liked by his high school lacrosse coach that he lent his car to the student so that he could drive his date to the prom.
“My father thought it was the coolest thing ever,” Mrs. Stringer said from her home in Baltimore.
Mr. McNicholas graduated from high school in 1948 after spending only three years there. When his daughter asked him how he did it, he replied, “I don’t know. I guess I just did well.”
At Johns Hopkins, Mr. McNicholas developed into a talented attackman. In his senior year, he was named a second-team All American, received the Sidney C. Erlanger Award given to the team’s outstanding senior, and represented the school at the North-South All-Star game. At Mount Washington, Mr. McNicholas was selected as the Most Outstanding Player in club lacrosse as a time when there were no professional franchises.
“He was tall, he was quick and fast,” Mr. Stellmann recalled. “He was an excellent crease attackman. He was hard for the defenseman to cover all the time.”
After graduating from Johns Hopkins in 1952 with a bachelor’s in engineering, Mr. McNicholas met the former Anne Marie Hartman through mutual friends on an outing at the boardwalk in Ocean City.
“At that time, my father had the hots for somebody else,” Mrs. Stringer said. “I don’t think she liked him. Then he met my mother, and he was like, ‘What was I thinking?’ That’s the story he’s told us.”
Mr. McNicholas enlisted with the U.S. Navy as an officer and jet fighter pilot on aircraft carriers. Until his discharge in 1957, he and the family — which included son Patrick John McNicholas — lived in 13 different houses on Naval bases in Florida.
After the family returned to Baltimore in 1957, Mr. McNicholas briefly worked at the Western Electric Co. before finding his calling at Tate Engineering, a firm started by Robert and Donald Tate, a pair of Mr. McNicholas' classmates at Johns Hopkins. Beginning as a sales engineer, Mr. McNicholas worked his way to becoming the company’s president and CEO.
“He’s the kind of person that really likes to work hard and reap the rewards,” Mrs. Stringer said. “He really believed that if you worked hard, it would pay off. … I remember him telling me that he liked to work every single day. He never stayed home because he was sick.”
Mr. McNicholas' role required him to travel often, including international trips to Asia.
“I’m pretty sure that he went to Malaysia, and it took me a long time to realize that he was way more important than I thought he was,” Mrs. Stringer said, adding that her father brought her some pearls from Malaysia. “Not that I didn’t think he was important because he was important to me, but when I realized that he was making these long, special trips, then it dawned on me.”
Mr. Stellmann said Mr. McNicholas enjoyed congregating at a friend’s house every New Year’s Day to watch college football games. He also owned season tickets to Colts games.
“If they won, he was very happy, and we’d all have another round of what we were drinking,” Mr. Stellmann said. “And if they lost, I think he would get up and go home.”
Mr. Stellmann said Mr. and Mrs. McNicholas hosted numerous New Year’s Eve parties at their home atop a steep hill in the Roland Park neighborhood. After one party, the hosts and guests were surprised to see snow covering the ground.
“Instead of taking the steps, we all slid down,” Mr. Stellmann said.
Mr. McNicholas was a devout Catholic who never missed a Mass on Sundays or holy days at Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore. He also was proud of his Irish heritage, which he tried to pass along to his children.
Mrs. Stringer recalled one St. Patrick’s Day in her freshman year at Maryvale Preparatory School when she tried to leave the house without wearing any green.
“He said, ‘No child of mine is going to leave this house without wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day,’” Mrs. Stringer said. “Of course, the uniforms at Maryvale were red and gray, and green didn’t really look good with red and gray. That was the problem. But I remember going upstairs and getting some St. Patrick’s Day green yarn and tying it up in my pigtails. And I’ve worn green every St. Patrick’s Day since then, and I even make my daughters wear it on St. Patrick’s Day.”
Former son-in-law and Maryland state Sen. John A. Pica Jr. said Mr. McNicholas based his home on family and faith.
“He was a role model, the kind of individual you would want to be with in a foxhole,” said Mr. Pica, who was married to Mrs. Stringer until their divorce in the late 1980s. “He was a combination of Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne and Karl Malden. He was tough, but sensitive. His life was built around family, faith and his Irish heritage. He was a wonderful man.”
When Mr. McNicholas retired from Tate Engineering in 1996 at the age of 65, he and Mrs. McNicholas moved to Queenstown and then Easton. They took up boating, graduating from a small cabin-less motorboat to a boat they traveled in to Virginia Beach and Florida.
At his retirement party, Mr. McNicholas was given a new set of golf clubs.
“He wasn’t very good initially, but with his athletic ability, he knew he could get it, and he ended up doing it,” Mrs. Stringer said, adding that her father carded a 78 when he was 78 years old. “It completely consumed him. He wrote down things in a book about how to stand. He ended up going nuts just like my husband.”
A funeral for Mr. McNicholas took place Sept. 11 at Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church in Easton. He was buried next to his wife — who died of myelodysplastic syndrome in 2007 — at Saint Peters Cemetery in Queenstown.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. McNicholas is survived by three sons, Patrick John McNicholas of Baltimore, Thomas James McNicholas of Baltimore and Timothy William McNicholas of San Jose, California; one daughter, Nancy McNicholas Gosnell of Easton; one brother, James McNicholas of Bel Air; seven grandchildren; two great-granddaughters; and one great-grandson due in December.