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William J. ‘Bill’ Boarman, former head of Government Printing Office and retired union leader, dies

William J. “Bill” Boarman was the nation's public printer from 2010 to 2012.
William J. “Bill” Boarman was the nation's public printer from 2010 to 2012. (GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE)

William J. “Bill” Boarman, a retired Public Printer of the United States and a former union leader, died Sunday as a result of a fall while getting off his boat. The Severna Park resident was 75.

“He was the finest man I’ve ever known,” said Linda McNamara, Mr. Boarman’s partner of 10 years.

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Born in Washington, D.C., to Julien Norbert Boarman, a handyman and farmer, and Mary Frances Edwards Boarman, a homemaker, Mr. Boarman grew up in Hyattsville.

A 1964 graduate of Northwestern High School, he tried out for “The Music Man” during his senior year to meet girls, according to Ms. McNamara, who said the theater director exclaimed, “That’s my Harold Hill!” when he hit the stage.

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“He was larger than life,” said his daughter Lauren Boarman.

Out of high school, Mr. Boarman became an apprentice with the International Typographical Union and quickly fell in love with the printing process.

“I always wanted to be a printer,’’ Mr. Boarman told the Capital Gazette in 1999. “I guess I always had ink in my veins.’’

He worked as a journeyman printer with McArdle Printing in Washington before joining the Government Printing Office, now known as the Government Publishing Office, as a proofreader in 1974. He later moved on to be a Linotype operator, a machine used to set type and print newspapers and magazines.

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Mr. Boarman married the former Mary Frances Vandegrift in 1976 and had two children, Lauren Boarman and Christopher Roebuck. The pair met at Fred’s Inn bar and formed the foundation of what Ms. Boarman described as a loving partnership where her parents “balanced each other out” until Mary Frances Boarman’s death in 2008.

Mr. Boarman was elected president of his local branch of the Columbia Typographical Union at age 30, rising through the ranks of union leadership before becoming the president of the Printing, Publishing and Media Workers sector of Communications Workers of America in 1989.

As the union leader, he served as chair of the organization’s $1 billion negotiated pension plan, and oversaw bargaining and community organizing throughout the printing industry.

“He used to take me to labor meetings when I was a kid and to picket lines,” Mr. Roebuck said.

“He did that for both of us. He instilled a love of the labor movement and politics in us,” Ms. Boarman said.

Mr. Boarman was a fierce advocate for labor rights, marching with Cesar Chavez in 1990 and getting arrested during the Detroit newspaper strike in 1996, according to Ms. McNamara.

In 2010, Mr. Boarman was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as the public printer, the head of the Government Printing Office, which oversees the printing of government documents and the very office where he began his career in printing.

He served as public printer from December 2010 to January 2012.

“He was a guy who would walk around and talk to the employees,” said John Crawford, a former co-worker. “It breaks my heart to hear that he has passed because he was a wonderfully warm man.”

After retiring from the Government Printing Office, Mr. Boarman was appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan to the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities as well as the Anne Arundel Board of Elections, which he served on until his death.

While printing may have been his first love, spending time on the water was another passion.

His children said they grew up boating on the Chesapeake Bay and Severn River. Ms. McNamara said she and Mr. Boarman had enjoyed a “lovely summer” on their “dream boat,” up until the day he died at his beloved yacht club.

He was a “treasure trove” of American history, according to his family, always quick to share arcane facts about politics and, of course, the labor movement during casual conversation.

Mr. Boarman was a man who cared deeply about politics and the impact of decisions, something his family said often got him riled up, especially during election season.

“We’d sometimes have to call him down, poor guy, ‘Stop watching the news!’” Mr. Roebuck recalls telling his father.

“Almost every election he scared us that he was going to have a heart attack,” Ms. Boarman said.

“He just loved these lively political discussions and he could have them with people who he didn’t see eye to eye with,” Ms. McNamara said.

His family recalls a man who loved fiercely and was a best friend to every friend he had.

“Bill was the kind of guy who just jumped on the phone and just called all his friends all the time,” Ms. McNamara said. “When COVID hit, he doubled down on that. He never let a friendship go by the wayside.”

“He believed in humans and he believed in people and he helped me to wake up in the morning and say, ‘OK, Let’s give it a go again,’” Ms. McNamara said.

In addition to his son, of Ithaca, New York, his daughter, of Gambrills, and his life partner, Mr. Boarman is survived by his brothers James, Dennis and Larry Boarman as well as his sister Nancy Boarman, and many nieces and nephews.

A memorial Mass will be held Tuesday at Our Lady of the Fields Roman Catholic Church at 1070 Cecil Ave. in Millersville.

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