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Robert L. Ehrlich Sr., retired Archway Ford salesman and father of former Maryland governor, dies

Robert L. Ehrlich Sr., a retired Ford salesman and the father of a former Maryland governor who enthusiastically campaigned for his son as a young athlete and later as a political candidate, died Tuesday at his son’s Annapolis home. He was 90.

His only child, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., said, “He just wore out. He died of natural causes.”

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Born in Baltimore and raised on West Mulberry Street near Bon Secours Hospital, he was the son of Clickner Ehrlich, a Baltimore City police officer, and his wife, Margaret Krausse. He was a graduate of Forest Park High School and as a young man he worked for the A&P grocery chain.

In a 2002 Sun story, Mr. Ehrlich recalled how his father’s dad, the police officer, loved baseball and football and invited him to games at the old Orioles International League ballpark on East 29th Street in the 1930s and early 1940s.

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He went on to enlist in the Marine Corps and fight in the Korean War.

“My father did not talk about this much. He lost a lot of his friends. He was the survivor of a foxhole. He emerged a very proud Marine,” said the former governor, adding that he accompanied his parents on a return trip to Korea about a decade ago and toured the country as the guests of the South Korean government.

The elder Mr. Ehrlich met his future wife, Nancy Bottorf, in church when they were both in their teens. In a Sun story, she recalled singing in a church choir and “every time I looked up, he was looking at me.”

In 1954 they went on a date to see the movie “The Moon is Blue.” They married in 1956.

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Mr. Ehrlich and his family settled in Arbutus and later lived on Dolores Avenue. He belonged to the Dewey Lowman Post of the American Legion and was a frequent patron of neighborhood gathering spots Leon’s and Paul’s, and in later years, a 7-Eleven. He liked the shrimp salad at Kibby’s on Wilkens Avenue, his son said.

“He was Mister Arbutus but then again, there are many who could claim that title,” the younger Mr. Ehrlich said. “My father was as much my agent as my dad. His conditionless love for his family was conveyed in so many ways.”

Mr. Ehrlich went from working for the grocery chain to getting a salesman’s job at Archway Ford on Hilton Street.

“He was our steady salesperson,” said Alan Abramson, who owned the agency and now lives in Naples, Florida. “I started shortly after Bob — my father had hired him. We were the youngest guys on the shift. Bob was a unique, laid-back guy. His selling style was friendly. Once you saw him put his arm around a customer’s shoulder, you knew he had a sale.”

Mr. Abramson described Mr. Ehrlich as a devoted father and soon began asking him to his son’s sports games.

“Some of Robert Sr.’s fondest memories are of playing ball, watching in disbelief as his 7-year-old Bobby [the future governor] made acrobatic football catches at the nearby junior high school field, receptions no boy his age had any business making,” said a Sun story.

“He also suggested to me that I might help him get into a different school, which I did. I suggested him to Nick Schloeder, a Gilman coach,” Mr. Abramson said.

The future governor received a scholarship and graduated from the Roland Avenue boys school. He became an attorney and entered Republican politics.

“My father was a legend in political circles for his campaigning. He’d say, ‘Please vote for my little boy,’” the former governor said.

A 2002 Sun story detailed the elder Mr. Ehrlich’s affection for his son.

“The elder Mr. Ehrlich’s dedication to his son became well known during the governor’s race last year — perhaps best exemplified by the 14 scrapbooks full of newspaper clippings and photographs he has kept chronicling Ehrlich’s accomplishments from sandlot football onward,” the 2003 Sun story said.

After the 2002 Maryland gubernatorial election and Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s move to Annapolis, his father became known as Senior.

“Senior’s eyes widen as he recalls his son’s accomplishments,” a Sun story said.

“Honesty, hard work, perseverance,” Mr. Ehrlich said of his son. “I wasn’t the kid he was. I curse. I drink a couple of beers.”

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s parents, Nancy and Robert L. Ehrlich Sr., seated in the front row of the Senate chamber, acknowledge the applause of the audience when they were identified by the governor during an address in 2004. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun)
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s parents, Nancy and Robert L. Ehrlich Sr., seated in the front row of the Senate chamber, acknowledge the applause of the audience when they were identified by the governor during an address in 2004. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun) (Amy Davis / XX)

When his son was inaugurated as governor in 2003, Senior admitted to a few tears. “An ex-Marine’s not supposed to cry,” he said.

Former Gov. Ehrlich said, “Of my own accomplishments, he was more proud of me being captain of the Princeton football team than he was of my being governor.”

When his son and wife were away from Annapolis, the elder Mr. Ehrlich and his wife moved into Government House for a week to care for their grandson.

“At first, they were reluctant to ask the staff for help. Eventually, they figured out that they could ask the chef to make anything they wanted,” a Sun story said.

“We had lobster for dinner,” Senior revealed in a hushed voice. “Twice,” he said.

Funeral services are private. A celebration of life is being planned for May 23 at Arbutus Town Hall.

Survivors include Mr. Ehrlich’s wife of 63 years, a retired legal assistant at the Weinberg & Green law firm; his son; and two grandsons, Drew Ehrlich, a student at Washington & Jefferson College, and Josh Ehrlich, a Broadneck High School student.

Baltimore Sun reporter McKenna Oxenden contributed to this article.

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