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William J. Baird Jr., insurance executive who was a leader in religious and civic affairs, dies

William J. Baird Jr. served on civic and religious charity boards.
William J. Baird Jr. served on civic and religious charity boards.

William James Baird Jr., a family patriarch and retired insurance executive who served on civic and religious charity boards, died of complications of dementia May 10 at Gilchrist Care Towson. The former Murray Hill and Mercy Ridge resident was 81.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Mount Washington, he was the son of William James Baird Sr., owner of the Maryland Survey Bureau, a consulting firm to the insurance industry, and his wife, Marianne Troja, a homemaker. He was one of nine children.

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He attended Shrine of the Sacred Heart School and was a 1957 graduate of Loyola High School at Blakefield, where he was an offensive tackle on the football team.

He earned Bachelor of Science and master’s degrees at what is now Loyola University Maryland, studying the physics of engineering.

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He met his future wife, Joanna Shehan, at a college mixer. They married in 1962

Mr. Baird began his career as an industrial engineer at Armco Steel and was later a consulting engineer for the family firm, Maryland Survey Bureau on Sulgrave Avenue.

He went on to join Stump Harvey and Cook in downtown Baltimore and eventually became a regional executive officer of the Willis Group Insurance Co.

His brother, Louis F. “Lou” Baird, said, “He was an outgoing person, and friendships were easy to come by for him. He was a great older brother and mentor to me. He gave me rides to all my athletic events.

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“He insights were valuable,” his brother said. “He was gifted academically and was thorough. He was good at evaluating situations and giving sound advice. He listened intently to what people were saying to him.”

“His incredible work ethic and negotiation skills led to his successful career, but when asked he would say, ‘I had great people working with me,’ ” said his son, Michael Richard Baird of Timonium.

Mr. Baird gave time and energy to numerous business, professional, civic, and church-related organizations.

He served on several committees of the Greater Baltimore Committee and its leadership development program. He was a board member of E.I. Schmitz Printing Co., General Supply and Equipment Co. and Fidelity Federal Savings and Loan Association.

“Bill was energetic and engaged in conversation easily. He was helpful when solving an issue too,” said a former classmate, Robert “Bob” Breschi, who lives in Timonium. “He had a deep religious faith and showed the way of what a caring person is supposed to be.”

Mr. Baird was a past board president of the Good Shepherd Center in Arbutus. He worked closely with the nuns who ran the home for young women assigned there by the courts system. In later years, when the center received teenage boys, he worked with them.

He was a 20-year board member of the Good Samaritan Hospital and also served the boards of Children’s Hospital, Loyola University Maryland, Loyola Blakefield, St. Ignatius Loyola Academy, the United Way of Central Maryland, Associated Catholic Charities, Papal Volunteers to Latin America and the Baltimore Independent School Scholarship Fund.

Mr. Baird was a trustee and longtime member of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. He was a development committee member of St. Mary’s Seminary, a screening committee member for the Archdiocese of Baltimore Vocations Office, and a daily volunteer for Our Daily Bread.

“Bill was an Our Daily Bread volunteer worker on Mondays,” said his wife. “But the other days of week, he picked up the unsold baked goods from Eddie’s and Graul’s markets and filled his car and drove them downtown, also to Our Daily Bread, so they would not go to waste.”

He received a Papal Medal, “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” in 1994 for his service to the church. In 1995 he was given the Fr. Joseph M. Kelly S.J. Medal from Loyola Blakefield. Loyola University Maryland gave him the Alumni Laureate Award in 1998 and the Andrew White medal in 2020.

Mr. Baird was a daily communicant at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.

“He was a family man and cherished the time he spent with his wife and children and particularly enjoyed attending their sporting events and performances,” said his son, Michael.

Mr. Baird was recalled as a talented woodworker. He also restored a 1952 Chevrolet convertible. He enjoyed improving the North Baltimore homes where he resided.

He played golf at the Baltimore Country Club and at Pine Ridge.

In addition to his wife of 59 years, a former teacher, his son and his brother, survivors include five other sons, William James Baird III of Hunt Valley, Daniel Shehan Baird of Annapolis, Lawrence Joseph Baird and Robert Fitzpatrick Baird, both of Timonium, and Mark Patrick Baird of Glen Allen, Virginia; two daughters, Mary Joanna Daniels of McKinney, Texas, and Amy Frances Buttarazzi of Baldwin.

He is also survived by another brother, Francis Baird of Catonsville; six sisters, Marianne Brennan of Timonium, Sister Marian Joseph Baird of North Carolina, Dorothy Simms of New Jersey, Regina Duff and Virginia Petr of Monkton, and Angela Morton of Forest Hill; 29 grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

A private family funeral Mass will be celebrated in the Alumni Chapel of Loyola University Maryland.

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