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Richard Furst, longtime Bel Air insurance analyst, dies

Richard Furst enjoyed the insurance business because he "liked getting to know other people."
Richard Furst enjoyed the insurance business because he "liked getting to know other people."

Richard Furst, a longtime risk-management analyst who loved days with his family on the beach in Ocean City and always had a grin, a joke or a song on his lips, died of cancer at the Senator Bob Hooper Hospice House in Forest Hill on Jan. 26.

The Bel Air resident was a month shy of his 75th birthday.

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Mr. Furst, a Baltimore sports fan and devoted husband and father, had a magnetic personality and eyes that lit up at the chance to catch up with an old friend or make a new one, his children said. On countless lunch outings with insurance colleagues, he would actively avoid the tendency to talk shop and instead would ask about their families, said his daughter, Michelle Feiss of Rochester, New York.

“He liked getting to know other people," she said. “That was his joy, getting to know their story.”

Richard Albert Furst was born Feb. 26, 1945, in Baltimore, the youngest of four children of Mary Furst, a homemaker, and Fred Furst, vice president of the J.H. Furst Co. The printing company began after the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 and remains in operation today.

Mr. Furst grew up on Winston Avenue in Baltimore’s Govans neighborhood and started working at his family’s company, operating the presses and learning the trade, around age 14.

He enjoyed telling stories about his rebel years at Towson Catholic High School, including one about a drive to California and back with his friend Jim Egan, said Mr. Furst’s son, Christopher Furst of Canton.

“He talked a lot about his teenage years,” he said.

Mr. Furst graduated from Towson Catholic in 1963. Four years later, he met his wife of nearly 50 years, the former Elizabeth Irving, at a Four Tops concert at Club Venus in Towson at age 22. The pair discovered they had grown up five blocks apart in Govans.

“That’s the first time he saw her, even though they basically lived in the same neighborhood since childhood,” Mrs. Feiss said.

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It was also the year he bought himself the muscle car he’d talk about for the next five decades: a brand-new, sky-blue 1967 Chevy Chevelle Malibu Super Sport.

“He loved that car,” his daughter said. “He didn’t buy a lot of things for himself. If Dad did go out and buy something for himself, you knew it was a big deal.”

Mr. Furst served in the Army from 1969 to 1971, stationed at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Belgium. He came home on leave to marry Mrs. Furst in February 1970, and she joined her new husband in Belgium after she graduated from the College of Notre Dame that spring.

Upon their return, he attended the University of Baltimore, with his tuition paid for by the G.I. Bill. He graduated in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree.

The couple moved to Towson, then bought a house in the Hillendale neighborhood of Parkville, where they lived until moving to Bel Air in 1977. Aside from a year in Connecticut in the early 1980s, they lived in Bel Air for the rest of Mr. Furst’s life.

He worked for years in his family’s printing business and co-founded another printing company, Furst Edition, with his wife in the late 1970s. But he was always intrigued by the insurance industry, which he had studied in college, and he spent a 43-year career in loss control and risk management.

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Mr. Furst took a job with the Maryland Casualty Co. after college, followed by several years at Cigna and 24 years at the Local Government Insurance Trust, where he advised government officials on risk management for floods and other crises.

“He liked the idea that he was keeping things safe for people,” Mrs. Feiss said.

Risk management required a lot of travel but brought him into contact with many different people across the region, often resulting in lifelong friendships.

“He had fun with it," said Christopher Furst. "He loved meeting people.”

John F. Breads, Jr., director of legal services at the Local Government Insurance Trust, said he told Mr. Furst he was the company’s version of Gino Marchetti, the legendary Baltimore Colts Hall of Fame defensive lineman.

“Dick was the consummate professional and a gracious, kind man," Mr. Breads said.

Eddie Carman, the Worchester County risk manager, called Mr. Furst “the best mentor anyone could hope for.”

“Even after his retirement and during his illness he continued to offer advice, both professional and personal, and was just great to talk to,” Mr. Carman said.

A country music lover, Mr. Furst particularly liked listening to Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley and Tim McGraw. A Colts fan who joined Ravens Nation when the team moved to Baltimore, he never missed an Orioles game if he could help it, tuning in to the radio broadcasts whenever he couldn’t get the games on TV. But nothing filled him with joy like the time spent with his family on the beach in Ocean City, where they often would spend vacations at his sister Mary Elise’s condominium.

“That’s when you truly saw Dad at his happiest,” Mrs. Feiss said.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Friday at Immaculate Conception Church, 200 Ware Ave. in Towson.

In addition to his son and daughter, Mr. Furst is survived by his wife; a brother, Joseph Furst of Chase; and his sister, Mary Elise Lanahan of Bel Air. He was preceded in death by another brother, Fred Furst.

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