George H. von Paris Sr., former president and chairman of Von Paris Enterprises Inc., died Tuesday at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Columbia of heart failure. He was 90.
"As a person, he was a self-made man and became a leader in the moving industry. He had a tremendous work ethic and a sense of leadership," said John von Paris, a nephew, who represents the fourth generation of his family to head the moving company.
"He was a humble man who believed in family, faith and integrity. He was a true role model," his nephew said. "And he was always looking to help the company until the day he died."
The son of Bonaventure von Paris, president of what was then B. Von Paris & Sons, and Teresa Anton von Paris, George Henry von Paris Sr., was one of nine children.
He was raised in Highlandtown and Woodlawn and attended Mount St. Joseph High School in Irvington.
Mr. von Paris withdrew from Mount St. Joseph to join B. Von Paris & Sons, which was established by his grandfather, Eligius von Paris, in 1892 with a single horse and wagon.
"Because of [World War II] and family business demands, he decided to leave after his sophomore year and help with the family business while his older brothers were in the service and stationed around the globe," said Meg McGovern von Paris, a daughter-in-law, of Towson.
Mr. von Paris enlisted in the Navy in 1943, and after basic training, was stationed at Attu in the Aleutian Islands, off the coast of Alaska.
After being discharged in 1946, he returned to the family business, beginning his career as a helper, driver and warehouseman.
Mr. von Paris rose through the ranks and held positions of dispatcher and operations manager before being named president of the company in 1963, a position he held until he retired in 1989.
During his tenure as president, the firm grew into one of the largest and most successful moving companies in Maryland and one of North American Van Lines' five top agents in the country.
"He assumed additional responsibilities as president of Hampden Moving & Storage, an affiliate company, from 1980 to 1989, and as president of Von Paris Enterprises, a holding company for the other companies, from 1984 to 1989, when he was named chairman of the board," his daughter-in-law said.
He retired as chairman of Von Paris Enterprises in 2013.
The company, now based in Savage, owns and operates other moving and storage companies and warehouses in the area. Clients have included Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, as well as royalty and celebrities, family members said.
"He was very hardworking, and no job was too complicated. He could work it out no matter what it was," his nephew said. "We will be celebrating our 125th anniversary in a couple of years, and we'll be doing that because Uncle George helped us get there."
Mr. von Paris was recalled as a fair and loyal colleague, who espoused an open-door policy for his employees.
"It didn't matter who you were or what your position in the company was, if you needed to knock on his door and have a few moments, he had all the time in the world for you," his daughter-in-law said.
Mr. von Paris served as president of the Movers & Warehousemen's Association of Maryland from 1963 to 1964, and was director of the organization for a decade. He also was Maryland vice president for the American Trucking Association.
In 2010, Mr. von Paris was surprised when Mount St. Joseph presented him with his high school diploma at the graduation of his grandson Mark von Paris.
The former longtime Woodlawn resident, who later moved to Ellicott City, was a communicant of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church, where he had been a member of the parish council and vice president of the Holy Name Society.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Roman Catholic Church of the Resurrection, 3175 Paulskirk Drive, Ellicott City.
In addition to his niece and nephew, Mr. von Paris is survived by his wife of 68 years, the former Mary Margaret Wachter; two sons, George Henry von Paris Jr. of Ellicott City and Mark Joseph von Paris of Towson; two brothers, Joseph Herman von Paris Sr. of Ellicott City and Lee von Paris of Cockeysville; four grandchildren; and two step-grandsons.