Michael J. Prenger, a former official of the Association of Maryland Pilots, died March 12 at his Rodgers Forge home.
Michael J. Prenger, a former official of the Association of Maryland Pilots, died March 12 at his Rodgers Forge home. (HANDOUT)

Michael Joseph Prenger, a retired member of the Association of Maryland Pilots who was its former vice president, died of an apparent heart attack Sunday at his Rodgers Forge home. He was 64.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Locust Point, he was the son of John Prenger, who worked on the waterfront as a cargo checker, and Stella Korzun. He attended Our Lady of Good Counsel School and was a 1970 graduate of Mount Saint Joseph High School.


He earned a bachelor's degree from the Johns Hopkins University and later received a master's degree from the Hopkins Writing Seminars. He enjoyed poetry, especially the works of Wallace Stevens. He was also a fan of science fiction.

Family members said he read extensively as a child and was a regular patron of an Enoch Pratt Free Library bookmobile that stopped weekly in Locust Point.

Friends said Mr. Prenger grew up in an extended family whose members worked in jobs along the harbor. He applied to become a bay pilot and began his apprenticeship in 1975. He became fully licensed in 1981. He retired in 2014.

As part of his apprenticeship, he was sent to Cork, Ireland in 1977 to assist in the overhaul of a former seagoing salvage tugboat that would become the Maryland, his association's boat and its base of maritime operations.

He worked at the dockyard in Ireland as a general assistant and stood watches and steered as the Maryland made its trip across the Atlantic to Baltimore. The tug was initially tied up at the foot of Broadway in Fells Point before going into regular service at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

He was elected to the bay pilots association's board of supervisors in 1984 and served as its first vice president in 1990. At that time, he gave up guiding vessels along the Chesapeake Bay and worked from an office on Dillon Street in Southeast Baltimore.

"He was an excellent pilot," said Eric A. Nielsen, president of the Association of Maryland Pilots. "And as a person, he was thoughtful and intelligent. I relied upon him for his good advice. When he was vice president, he modernized the accounting aspects of the association through the use of new computers."

In 2010, Gov. Martin O'Malley named him to the Maryland Board of Pilots, the panel that licenses bay pilots and selects apprentices.

"He had a great sense of humor and a memory for details. He loved the business of piloting, and he was a good working partner," said fellow pilot Brian Hope. "Mike was popular and well liked. He was known as one of our most intelligent people. It was said that when you talked with him, at times you needed a dictionary."

"My uncle often had a book in his hand. He was intellectually curious. He was generous with his time," said his niece, Alexandra Cox of Phoenix in Baltimore County.

He followed the Orioles and enjoyed surfing at South Bethany Beach, Del., Santa Cruz, Calif., and North Carolina's Outer Banks. He was also musical and studied the cello.

A Buddist, he attended the Burning House Zen Community in Lutherville. He also went on frequent retreats to Endless Mountain Zendo in Stillwater, Pa.

No funeral is planned. Plans for a life celebration are pending.

Survivors include his wife of 40 years, Jan Cunningham, a retired Baltimore Sun circulation assistant; two sons, Kai Prenger of New York City and Ryan Prenger of Asheville, N.C.; and a sister, Jeanne Cox of Baltimore.