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Thomas Charles Martel Sr., of North Roland Park, was a retired commercial real estate executive.
Thomas Charles Martel Sr., of North Roland Park, was a retired commercial real estate executive. (Baltimore Sun)

Thomas Charles Martel Sr., a retired commercial real estate executive, died of Alzheimer's disease March 13 at Arden Court in Ruxton. He was 78 and lived in North Roland Park.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Gelson Drive in Edmondson Village, he was the son of Joseph F. Martel Sr., a Baltimore Police Department clerk, and Catherine Cohee Martel, a receptionist at the Archdiocese of Baltimore's offices.

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He attended St. Bernardine School and was a 1954 graduate of Loyola High School, now Loyola Blakefield, where he played football. He earned a Bachelor of Science in biology at what is now Loyola Maryland University.

On Nov. 26, 1953, a Baltimore Sun news account noted how his recovered fumble set the stage for Loyola High School's winning touchdown in the annual football game against Calvert Hall at Memorial Stadium. He was named the game's unsung hero.

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The next month Mr. Martel was honored by the Knights of Columbus when he was named to the All Catholic Team at an event held at the old Alcazar Ballroom. Former Sen. Herbert R. O'Conor and Charles P. McCormick, the spice executive, also awarded him a trophy at the firm's annual Unsung Hero banquet held at its Light Street headquarters.

As a teen he delivered The Sun and wrapped holiday presents at the old Hochschild Kohn department store. He also worked the soda fountain at Voshell's pharmacy on Edmondson Avenue.

In 1959 he married Nancy Byrnes, who also grew up in Edmondson Village. They had attended the same grade school.

He joined Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in Lancaster, Pa., and later became a real estate salesman and broker at W. C. Pinkard & Co. in downtown Baltimore. In 1974 Mr. Martel moved into the commercial and industrial brokerage firm KLN, which is now KLNB. He ran the company from 1990 until his retirement in 2001.

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"I took over in 1990 when we were on the bottom," Mr. Martel said in a 2000 Sun article. "We had to restructure the economics of the company and what we were spending. I had to go collect money and it was a hard time to collect money."

Colleagues said he was credited with making his business a regional enterprise with transactions from Richmond to Philadelphia.

"Tom had great integrity," said J. Norris Byrne, his brother-in-law, who is a retired Baltimore County circuit judge. "People recognized that and they trusted him. He was loyal to his clients."

He retired as KLNB Inc. president and chief executive officer.

"He led by example. He liked to work hard and he liked to work smart," said F. Patrick Hughes, retired chief executive officer of the Mid-Atlantic Reality Trust and retired chair of Nottingham Properties.

"He was actively involved in recruiting and leading the next generation of the company," said Jim Caronna, a KNLB principal.

Mr. Martel was a former board member of Loyola Blakefield, where he was an active alumnus. He also was a board member of Franklin Square Medical Center.

He was the 1981 president of the Baltimore Washington chapter of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors.

"He believed in the power of small business to shape families and communities," said his son, Ned Martel, of Los Angeles. "He made the rounds to each shopping center — Columbia, Perry Hall, Odenton and many others — that he managed. He listened to what tenants needed to succeed. He imbued young sales persons with his rain-or-shine work ethic, and he passed on wise counsel and business leads with generosity and humor."

Mr. Martel also led the redevelopment of the former Seton High School at North Charles and 28th streets. It now houses the Johns Hopkins School of Education.

Mr. Martel raised his family in Rodgers Forge, Cedarcroft and Kernewood, where he was an active member of their community associations, including the York Road Action and Planning Committee.

He enjoyed weekend boating and the time spent at a family home on Peachblossom Creek in Easton. He also played golf in England and Scotland and at the Country Club of Maryland, where he was a board member.

A memorial Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, 740 N. Calvert St., where he was a member.

In addition to his wife of nearly 56 years and son, Mr. Martel is survived by two other sons, Thomas C. Martel Jr. and Stephen J. Martel, both of Towson; a daughter, Kay Martel Connors of Rodgers Forge; a brother, Joseph F. Martel Jr. of Baltimore; a sister, Mary Joan Perry of Annapolis; and six grandchildren.

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