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Thomas A. Lohm, judge and Navy veteran

Judge Thomas A. Lohm, a military veteran and animal lover, died June 24. He was 93.
Judge Thomas A. Lohm, a military veteran and animal lover, died June 24. He was 93. (Handout photo, Baltimore Sun)

Thomas A. Lohm, a World War II veteran who later became chief administrative judge for Montgomery County District Court, died June 24 of complications from Alzheimer's disease at a home for senior citizens in Towson.

Judge Lohm turned 93 four days before he died.

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"He was a gem. He was brilliant," said Ethelee Hewitt Nalls, Judge Lohm's private-practice secretary for 11 years. "I thought of him as a second father."

Born in Clarksburg, W. Va., Judge Lohm was the son of Albert Lohm, a banking attorney during the Great Depression, and Genevieve Lohm, a homemaker. The family moved throughout the South wherever Judge Lohm's father was needed as a receiver for failing banks before settling in the Montgomery County community of Kensington in 1935.

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Judge Lohm graduated from Bethesda Chevy Chase High School, said his daughter, Sande Riesett.

After high school, in June 1942, Judge Lohm enrolled in the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. Four months later he was working on convoy ships crossing the North Atlantic, a treacherous route targeted by Nazi submarines.

"He was the last living guy in his graduating class from the academy," Mrs. Riesett said.

He served most of the rest of the war for the Navy on a destroyer and mine sweeper off North Africa and in the Pacific. On leave in New York, a friend of Judge Lohm's set him up on a blind date with Helen Glidden of Lancaster, Pa., and the two hit it off. They were married in 1945.

"My dad was one of those guys who loved everything: the food, the guys he served with, even being in the engine room," Mrs. Riesett said.

Judge Lohm left the military in June 1946 and attended George Washington University in Washington. After graduating, he went on to graduate from the university's law school in 1951. He practiced law in Washington and expanded his practice to Maryland after being admitted to the state's bar in 1954.

He worked as a prosecutor in the early 1960s in Montgomery County but shifted into full-time private practice by 1969.

Mrs. Nalls said she applied for a job with Judge Lohm without knowing he was friends with her father. The two men were volunteer firefighters together in Kensington. She said her boss loved animals and would occasionally bring his dog to the office.

"He hated golf. He hated football. He loved to garden," Mrs. Nalls said.

She laughed when recalling how she used to give him ceramic frogs every year for his birthday until his wife, who had triplet brothers named Tom, Dick and Harry, told her "no more."

"We did become family over the years," she said.

Judge Lohm was appointed to the District Court bench in Montgomery County in 1980 and served there until his official retirement in 1992. For most of his tenure he served as the chief administrative judge. But even after retiring, he worked for another decade traveling the state wherever a judge was needed — mostly in Western Maryland, near where he had a vacation home in West Virginia.

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News reports show he oversaw some headline-making cases, including a case of a Gaithersburg man convicted of fondling a 14-year-old girl while working as a shopping mall Santa Claus in 1996. He also presided over portions of a case involving millionaire Ruthann Aron, a former U.S. Senate candidate who served 36 months starting in 1998 for trying to hire a hit man to kill her husband and another man. When Aron's lawyer attempted to have her transferred from Montgomery County Detention Center to Sheppard Pratt Hospital, Judge Lohm rejected the bid.

Judge Lohm faced his biggest challenge in 2000 when his eldest daughter, Patricia, died of breast cancer.

"That just destroyed him," Mrs. Riesett said.

By 2004, at age 82, Judge Lohm's health began to fail him and Mrs. Riesett took the difficult step of calling state officials to ask them to no longer assign him cases. Not long after, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Mrs. Riesett and Mrs. Nalls said Judge Lohm was a strong advocate for victims' rights, especially those of women and of animals. Whenever he presided over cases that involved animals, he would insist on having the creatures present in the courtroom so he could see them, his daughter said.

"He really was one of those old time guys who didn't want to see anyone pushed around or taken advantage of," she said. "He brought up daughters to believe they could do anything. And every woman who ever worked for him thought of him as a second dad."

In addition to his wife and daughter, Judge Lohm is survived by his son-in-law, Don Riesett.

A 1 p.m. memorial service is scheduled for Tuesday, June 30, at Mercy Ridge in Timonium. In lieu of flowers and to honor his lifelong love of animals, contributions may be made in his name to BARCS, the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, Inc.

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