James L. Grem, a retired McCormick & Company Inc. executive and indefatigable golfer who aced three holes-in-one, died of an apparent heart attack April 28 at his Timonium home. He was several days short of his 92nd birthday.
Born in Baltimore and raised on Drew Street, he was the son of James J. Grynkiewicz, who changed his name to Grem and was a Baltimore and Ohio Railroad trainman, and his wife, Frances, a homemaker. Mr. Grem was a 1948 graduate of Mount St. Joseph’s High School and served in the Maryland National Guard.
He delivered Cloverland Milk to help put him through the University of Baltimore.
Mr. Grem met his future wife, Virginia I. Cook, at work. She was a stenographer and he worked in transportation at the Olin Mathieson Corp. They married in 1956 and several years later settled in Timonium, where he supervised the construction of their home.
He joined McCormick at its old Light Street headquarters. He worked in logistics and transportation and was a company trouble shooter. He early on recognized his employer was running out of space in its crowded downtown Baltimore spice plant and headquarters.
“He presented the idea the company should expand from the harbor area and he suggested that McCormick build a distribution center on Beaver Dam Road. He went on to oversee construction of that building, the first of the McCormick buildings outside of downtown,” said his son Thomas Grem. “He spent some of his happiest days working at McCormick.”
A specialist in sales and marketing, he later joined Aerojet-General Corp., Rohr Industries, Tate Architectural Products and the Koppers Co., where he was director of market development.
He and business partners Roy Johnson and Steve Melnyk owned and operated a metals fabrication business, Tydings, Lynch and Lorenz; a refuse compacting equipment firm, Toronita; and Newco, which did injection molding of plastics.
“He had an ability to spend time asking people about themselves,” said his son Thomas. “He could engage people and have them do the talking. The lesson he learned from his mother was you never learn anything with your own mouth being open. Even on the golf course, he engaged new golfers and asked how their game was progressing.”
“My parents played golf together,” Thomas said. “My father was not an overly excitable individual, but he did get an early thrill in golf when his wife made the first ace in the family. Her hole-in-one occurred late on a Friday afternoon on the ninth hole at the Worthington Valley Golf Course.”
His son said Mr. Grem worked hard at whatever he did and was proud that he stayed with the game long enough to break 80 a couple of times.
The Morning Sun
Mr. Grem and his wife had been members of the Hunt Valley Country Club since 1971.
After he retired in the late 1990s, Mr. Grem golfed in most any weather condition and most every day.
“A fellow golfer made the comment that he had played 13 of the prior 15 days,” his son said. “My father replied to him that was a lot of golf, but he was playing in his 435th consecutive day. So neither rain nor snow nor sleet would keep him away from the golf course. He was forever known as a walker who would carry his own bag, rather than ride in a cart.”
He played golf for decades before scoring his three holes-in-one. He shot a pair of aces at Hunt Valley and another at Melrose Golf Course. He played until days before his death.
Mr. Grem and his wife remained active at the Hunt Valley Club. Their sons also joined and the extended family watched each other compete. Mr. Grem competed with his grandchildren several times a year.
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His son recalled his father as a person of deep faith who was a long time communicant at Church of the Nativity in Timonium and St Joseph Parish in Cockeysville, where a funeral was held Monday.
Survivors include his wife of 66 years, Virginia I. Cook; two sons, Thomas Grem of Towson and Steve Grem of Bel Air; a sister, Arlene Benzing of Ellicott City; five grandchildren; and two great-grandsons. A son, David Grem, died in 2015.