S. Jerry Dadds, a graphic artist once selected by the Postal Service to create a set of postage stamps commemorating U.S. presidents, died of dementia complications Sept. 21 at Arden Court in Riderwood. He was 79 and lived in Ruxton.
Born in Ridgely in Caroline County and raised on West Fayette Street and in Edmondson Village, he was the son of Samuel Dadds, a Bethlehem Steel crane operator, and his wife, Juanita Rhodes, a homemaker. His family had lived in Talbot and Queen Anne’s counties for generations.
“My father’s artistic talent was recognized at a young age,” said his daughter, Holly Cybelle Merker of Downingtown, Pennsylvania. “As a child, he won competitions. He was constantly drawing or making sculptures. Despite all his success, he was a humble man. His demeanor was gentle, forgiving and gracious."
Mr. Dadds was a 1957 graduate of Baltimore City College, enrolled in its experimental art curriculum. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at the Philadelphia University of the Arts.
While at school, he began a lifelong interest in woodcuts. He assembled a tool and knife collection used to make his prints. He also did three-dimensional assemblages and collages for clients, who used them in their boardrooms and lobbies.
He served a year in the Coast Guard and moved to San Francisco, where he was a freelance artist. He returned to Baltimore and worked for WJZ Channel 13 in its art department.
In the early 1970s he co-founded a commercial arts business, Eucalyptus Tree Studio, on 25th Street and later on Maryland Avenue. In 1978 he acquired the former Karl M. Graf interior design building at 2220 N. Charles St., where he established a successful illustration and design studio.
The studio staff worked for the Orioles, National Geographic, the Johns Hopkins University and the old Equitable Trust Co., as well as national firms. He also illustrated two seafood recipe cookbooks for the state of Maryland and created the logo for the Charles Village Civic Association.
Colleagues said Mr. Dadds established a large client base. He drew the logo for the first Pride of Baltimore — his father, the Bethlehem crane operator, lowered it into the harbor — and in 1986 created woodcut images for the U.S. presidents for the Postal Service.
Mr. Dadds worked with the numerous advertising agencies in what is now called the Old Goucher neighborhood. His studio housed artists, bookkeepers and a national sales staff that sold the firm’s design services.
“Jerry loved doing his art projects that promoted Baltimore,” said Paula Adelsberger Simon, who worked at the studio many years ago. “The door to Eucalyptus Tree was always open, and his holiday party was one of the big events of the season.”
The graphic artists he collaborated with filled the former bedrooms and living areas of the double-width residence that had belonged to prominent 19th-century Baltimorean Thomas Carey.
“Jerry was always the core of Eucalyptus Tree,” said a friend, Dennis Simon. “He filled the place with all his collections, the clocks from the old railroad stations and advertising signs.”
Mr. Simon also said: “Jerry was always experimenting with different techniques, although he loved woodcut the most. He once tried painting with shoe polish. Another time he tried crackle paint, and then he used an engineer’s drafting pen with a vibrator attached to create a jagged line.”
Mr. Dadds set the tone for his industrious workplace, which mixed eccentric art and antiques with meeting advertising publication deadlines.
“He fell in love with the house, its gardens, the 12-foot-high windows, the broken piano, the 19th-century brownstone steps leading up to the double doors, and the fireplaces,” said a 2009 Baltimore Sun article. “You can still walk on the original Georgia pine floorboards; some single planks are 40 feet long.”
Mr. Dadds described his role at Eucalyptus Tree: “I feel like I’ve been a guardian of this place.”
He also made a series of calendars that featured his woodcuts or other artwork.
“Jerry cared deeply for animals, and the human spirit. He had a strong connection to the Southwestern U.S.,” said his daughter. “He created calendars which featured his woodcut art for the Center for American Indian Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. All proceeds went towards supporting the center in its mission to raise the health and self-sufficiency of American Indian tribes.”
She described his work ethic as “impressive.” He did illustration and design during the day, and at night, at his home on Berwick Avenue and later on Circle Road, he produced his fine art.
“It was said in the 1970s that Jerry helped bring printmaking and the art of woodcutting back into popularity within the commercial art business,” his daughter said.
Friends said that on Wednesday afternoons, he left his studio and became a bidder on artifacts and antiques at Dixon’s Crumpton auction in Queen Anne’s County. He was also a regular at the Brimfield, Massachusetts, antique sales.
He raised Scottish deerhounds and owned vintage automobiles, including a series of Jaguars and a Terraplane pickup truck. He also collected vintage harmonicas and an Australian wind instrument, the didgeridoo.
“He had a knack for recognizing the potential and beauty of something that could be restored and brought back to life,” his daughter said. He often traveled to the United Kingdom, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, where he owned a 200-year-old barn.
A celebration of life will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at The Elm, 3100 Elm Ave. in Hampden.