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Robert B. Haldeman died Feb. 10 at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Robert B. Haldeman died Feb. 10 at Johns Hopkins Hospital. (Baltimore Sun)

Robert B. Haldeman, a social worker turned lawyer who with his wife co-founded Coventry CareLink, a company that financed and developed continuing-care communities, died Feb. 10 of viral pneumonia at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The Guilford resident was 74.

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"I've known Bob for more than 40 years, and he was a very impressive guy," said Cleaveland D. Miller, principal and chairman of Semmes, Bowen & Semmes, where Mr. Haldeman worked as a young attorney. "His integrity, honesty and ability to communicate fairly and evenly were respected by all."

His father was John Bergey Haldeman, an accountant with the Manhattan Project — the World War II effort that led to the development of the first atomic bomb. His mother was Rebecca Berry Haldeman, a homemaker,

Robert Berry Haldeman was born in Birmingham, Ala. Because of his father's work, he lived in Hanford, Wash., and later Wilmington, Del., where he graduated from high school.

An Eagle Scout, he enrolled at Springfield College in Springfield, Mass., where he was a gymnast and team captain, and earned a bachelor's degree in 1963.

While at college, he met and fell in love with a fellow student, Evelyn Gail MacGregor, a pianist from Baltimore. They married in 1964.

After obtaining a master's degree in 1965 in social work from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, he returned to Wilmington and became a social worker.

He worked with youths in some of the city's roughest neighborhoods. He launched the Wilmington Youth Emergency Action Corps, which conducted intervention and peacemaking efforts after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

While working with delinquent youths, he earned a law degree from the Villanova University School of Law and was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1973.

Mr. Haldeman moved to Baltimore in 1973 and joined Semmes, Bowen & Semmes with the stipulation that he would be able to do pro bono work. He eventually was made a partner in the firm.

One of his achievements while working there was handling legal work for the Broadmead retirement community in Cockeysville, which opened in 1979. That work focused his attention on the issues of elder housing.

Mr. Haldeman played a legal role in the 1973 merger of two Baltimore Presbyterian churches that became the First and Franklin Presbyterian Church. Mrs. Haldeman said her husband "was also instrumental in helping Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church and Brown Memorial Woodbook Presbyterian Church divide" in 1980.

He left the law firm in 1983, and two years later, he and his wife co-founded what became Coventry CareLink. He was president; she was vice president.

Through the company, the Haldemans eventually built eight continuing-care communities in New England and the Mid-Atlantic, including Wake Robin in Shelburne, Vt., and Arbor Glen in Bridgewater, N.J.

"He left to pursue his second career, and it was natural for him to apply his many talents in projects designed to help people," said Mr. Miller. "I had the opportunity as a member of his board to work with him these past 10 years as he rolled out his dream for long-term care."

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Coventry is now part of the United Security Assurance Corp. of Pennsylvania. Mr. Haldeman served as president and CEO of United Security Assurance Inc. of Souderton, Pa., the parent company of United Security. He also served on the boards of both entities.

"Bob was a workaholic and a playaholic who dedicated most of his life to helping seniors. He was very well known in the senior-communities business around the country. He was a visionary and a realist in forming eight fine communities for the elderly in the East," said Ernest F. Imhoff, a former 45-year next-door neighbor in Bolton Hill and a retired Baltimore Sun editor.

"As a person, he could be very intense, and when he was working, he was on the phone for long hours," said Mr. Imhoff. "But after that, he was a playaholic who enjoyed outdoor fun and brisk social talk."

Physical fitness was an important part of Mr. Haldeman's life. In addition to gymnastics, he bicycled, swam, hiked and canoed. He enjoyed activities at a home gym in Bolton Hill and at a camp he and his wife owned on Lake George in upstate New York.

Mr. Imhoff described Mr. Haldeman has having a "quiet, serious demeanor and a whimsical funny side, full of stories from his experiences as a lawyer and private-public citizen. He liked to joke and tease."

"When some people die, it can affect you very strongly," said Mr. Miller. "I wrote to Bob's wife and said that I felt a very bright flame had been extinguished, but those of us who knew him will always remember that flame."

Mr. Haldeman was an active member of Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, 1316 Park Ave., where a celebration of his life will be held at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

In addition to his wife of 51 years, he is survived by three sons, Brian Haldeman of Baltimore, Gordon Haldeman of Freeport, Maine, and Scott Haldeman of Chicago; a brother, John Bergey Haldeman II of Quarryville, Pa.; and seven grandchildren.

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