On October 24, 2018, Joseph Leo Bahlman, beloved husband of Roseanna Bahlman (nee Brendel); devoted father of Lauren Bahlman, and David Bahlman and his wife Chelsea; loving grandfather of Erin Paxton, Kevin Paxton, Alexandra Paxton, Jack Bahlman, Luke Bahlman, and Ryder Bahlman. Also survived by other loving family members and friends.
Friends may call at the Candle Light Funeral Home, 1835 Frederick Road, Catonsville, MD. 21228 on Sunday 1PM to 4PM. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Mark Chapel, 30 Melvin Avenue, Catonsville, MD. 21228 on Monday at 10AM. Interment Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens.
Joseph Leo Bahlman, Jr. is simply known as Leo or Lee to his family and friends. As a kid he hated the name “Jr.” and started calling himself Leo, and that is how we knew him.
Leo had a challenging childhood, but a good one. Very early in life his parents divorced and remarried other people and went on to have other families. Leo was not included in that and was raised instead by his maternal grandmother, Myrtle Hartzel of South Baltimore in her little house on Wheeling Street. Now at the center of the young social culture of Federal Hill, Wheeling Street was then a neighborhood of Irish and German immigrants who worked as sailors and shipbuilders. Leo’s father worked in the shipyards and lived nearby. While he was not raised by his parents, he saw them both regularly.
Leo’s grandmother sent him walking to church at St. Mary, Star of the Sea to study his catechism. He was an altar boy and a typical neighborhood kid, running errands at the market, helping his grandmother and getting into mischief.
Leo spent a lot of time with his paternal grandmother as well, who was notorious in South Baltimore as a former Zigfield Follies entertainer and owner of the neighborhood pub, Nell Tydings’ Place. Nellie took Leo to the Kiddie Choir at the Hippodrome to sing on Saturdays and propped him up at the piano to sing while patrons threw nickels at her Pub.
Leo grew up singing. He was known as a crooner at Southern High School, Class of 1955. He was offered a spot at Peabody Institute after high school as a tenor to continue his vocal training. He was also offered an opportunity by his father to go to University of Maryland if he agreed to live with him and his new family, but Leo would not abandon the woman who raised him, now that she was older and needed him. He passed up his opportunities for school and went to work to bring home a paycheck for his Grandmother. He worked odd jobs in the neighborhood as a teenager. He worked supporting the cast of Romper Room at one point, and eventually began to build a career as a medical supply salesman. During this time, he served in the Air National Guard.
Myrtle passed away when Leo was 25, and Leo bought her house and stayed in South Baltimore. He joined social clubs like the Horns and Halos, where he met his closest lifelong friends, Bob Thommen, Bob Jones and Frank Kemp. He went on his first big trip with these friends – a cruise to Bermuda, which made him fall in love with Bermuda and gave him the itch to travel. Leo’s social group was enormous. He was always surrounded by friends – from school, from the neighborhood, from his social organizations. He had a mentor at work who pulled him into a Toastmasters group, where he started learning leadership skills and speechmaking, both skills which would be part of his character for life.
One Easter night, after the church and family obligations, Leo had a party as his house, and a woman from the other side of town walked into his kitchen, looking like Mary Tyler Moore. He headed over and said something that annoyed her, and she left with her date. Weeks went by, and he was out again when the same pretty brunette showed up again with the same date. She was a college graduate and had already travelled around the world, and this time he was able to charm her. She never went out with the other poor guy again.
After several months of dating, Roseanna Brendel told her father she was going to marry a kid from Wheeling Street, Nell Tydings’ grandson. Fred Brendel was not initially impressed. Leo took Fred to an Orioles game and found a way to use his charm to win him over and the wedding took place on February 25, 1967.
Leo and Roseanna bought their first house together on Aldershot Road in Catonsville, and rented out the upstairs apartment.
Leo spent his married life as an autodidact – he self-taught himself everything he ever wanted to know. He read the paper every morning, he watched the news every day. He read countless books on World War II history, and learned gardening from the little old lady next door. He bought more gardening books and grew a green thumb. When they moved a couple years later to Rollingfield Road, it came with an extensive garden in the back yard, where he spent the rest of his life caring for the shrubs and flowers, the ivy, and the trees.
He continued to buy properties throughout Baltimore City until he had enough to switch careers to professional landlord, and used all his extra time during the day to be with his family – he rarely missed a dinner with his family, and he rarely missed a Sunday that he didn’t take his family to visit grandparents, cousins, or out to dinner.
Leo continued his love of music by playing guitar and singing for friends and family, and continued an active social life that included all of his friends – parties, Friday nights in Baltimore City, poker nights and card games, events, and lots and lots of travelling. He loved the Orioles and the Colts, and went to games as frequently as he could.
Leo raised two children, Lauren born in 1968 and David born in 1971. He gave them things he never dreamed of – private school, big Christmas celebrations, vacations, and sent them both to the University of Maryland. He was very close with his nephew, Carlton, who spent a lot of time with Uncle Leo, celebrating holidays and joining them on some vacations as well.
Leo volunteered at Trinity School as the President of the PTA and invented the Turtle Derby, a tradition at the school that goes on to this day. Leo also served as the President of the Board at the Rollingwood Pool. He coached softball, basketball, baseball, and went to so many local sporting events it is hard to count them all. Everywhere he went, he collected friends and kept them laughing.
Over his lifetime, Leo and Roseanna explored most of Western Europe. He made trips to Russia, Israel and to Egypt. He loved Mexico and the Caribbean and got his scuba certification in a cold quarry in Pennsylvania in order to dive in the azure waters of the Caribbean. He put all of his random friends from all the aspects of his life together and took them to Europe. He took some people on their first flight, or their first trip outside of the United States. He sailed with his friends all over the Chesapeake, and he took his family on several memorable sailing trips that they still argue and laugh about to this day. He loved white water rafting. He showed his family some of the most beautiful locations – the Redwood Forest, the Grand Tetons, Niagara Falls, and the islands. In June 2018, Roseanna took Leo on his final cruise to his beloved Bermuda with lifelong friends, Marlene and Frank Frenda.
Over the years, Leo gave several speeches about what was important in life. He always mentioned family, but he usually started by talking about friendship. It was his experience that his friends – some of them he called brothers – were in his life because they chose to be in his life, and that was one of the most valuable gifts he ever received from God, and he treasured their friendship enormously.
He was thrifty to a fault, he was stubborn, he was charming, he was notorious. He was grumpy. He was hilarious. He made us laugh around the hemisphere, and around the globe. He argued with everyone. He had the best tax attorney anyone has ever known. He was always right. He held onto grudges but he eventually let them all go. He pulled out the 1976 World Book Encyclopedia Britannica to prove every point from 1976 – 1995 when we finally threw it away. He buried his parents with respect. He treasured his family. He treasured his friends. When they preceded him in death, he felt that loss profoundly. He loved the fact that there are three Bahlman grandsons to carry on his name. He kept his vows to his wife. He kept up all the relationships that he developed over the years to the best of his ability.
I remember a family night in the kitchen when I was a kid, and we were debating about death. He told us, “When I’m old, and you have to decide whether or not to pull the plug….DON’T DO IT. LEAVE THAT THING PLUGGED IN FOREVER. I WANT TO LIVE FOREVER. DON’T YOU DARE PULL THAT PLUG.” We were crying laughing. In the end, despite the years and the trials of his illness, there was peace. With his wife’s hand firmly in his, he slipped quietly away to re-join loved ones on the other shore, where they ran to greet him and are doubled over in laughter while he holds court where he belongs – center spotlight.
Gone From My Sight
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says, "There, she is gone."
Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me -- not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, "There, she is gone,"
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"
And that is dying...
This poem is often attributed to Bishop Charles Henry Brent, but the Dallas Public Library staff concurs with the Transylvanian Dutch website for genealogy and family history. After 10 years of research, they believe that the “Parable of Immortality” was written by Rev. Luther F. Beecher which is also known as “What is Dying"