James L. Grem, a retired McCormick & Company Inc. executive and tireless golfer who shot three holes in one, died of an apparent heart attack April 28 at his home in Timonium. He was days away from his 92nd birthday.
Born in Baltimore and raised on Drew Street, he was the son of James J. Grynkiewicz, who changed his name to Grem and was a Baltimore and Ohio Railroad worker, and his wife, Frances, a homemaker. Mr. Grem graduated in 1948 from Mount St. Joseph High School and served in the Maryland National Guard.
He delivered Cloverland Milk to help him pass through the University of Baltimore.
Mr. Grem met his future wife, Virginia I. Cook, at work. She was a stenographer and he worked in transportation at Olin Mathieson Corp. They married in 1956 and a few years later moved to Timonium, where he oversaw the construction of their home.
He joined McCormick at his former Light Street headquarters. He worked in logistics and transportation and was a corporate troubleshooter. He recognized early on that his employer was running out of space in his crowded downtown Baltimore spice factory and headquarters.
“He presented the idea that the business should expand from the port area and he suggested that McCormick build a distribution center on Beaver Dam Road. He then oversaw the construction of this building, the first of the McCormick buildings outside of downtown,” said his son Thomas Grem. “He spent some of his happiest days working at McCormick.”
A sales and marketing specialist, he later joined Aerojet-General Corp., Rohr Industries, Tate Architectural Products and Koppers Co., where he served as director of market development.
He and his business partners Roy Johnson and Steve Melnyk owned and operated a metal fabrication business, Tydings, Lynch and Lorenz; a garbage compaction equipment company, Toronita; and Newco, which did injection molding of plastics.
“He had the ability to spend time asking people about themselves,” his son Thomas said. “He could engage people and get them talking. The lesson he learned from his mother was that you never learn anything with your mouth open. Even on the golf course, he hired new golfers and asked them how their game was progressing.
“My parents played golf together,” Thomas said. “My dad wasn’t an overly excitable person, but he got an early thrill at golf when his wife made the family’s first ace. His hole-in-one came late on a Friday afternoon on the ninth hole of the Worthington Valley golf course.
His son said Mr Grem worked hard at everything he did and was proud to have stuck with the game long enough to break 80 a few times.
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Mr. Grem and his wife had been members of the Hunt Valley Country Club since 1971.
After retiring in the late 1990s, Mr. Grem played golf in almost all weather conditions and almost every day.
“Another golfer commented that he had played 13 of the previous 15 days,” his son said. “My dad told him it was a lot of golf, but it was his 435th day in a row, so no rain, snow or sleet would keep him away from the golf course. always been known as a walker who carried his own bag rather than riding in a cart.
He played golf for decades before scoring his three holes in one. He pulled a pair of aces at Hunt Valley and another at Melrose Golf Course. He played until a few days before his death.
Mr. Grem and his wife remained active at the Hunt Valley Club. Their sons also joined, and the extended family watched each other compete. Mr. Grem competed with his grandchildren several times a year.
His son remembered his father as a person of deep faith who had long communicated at the Church of the Nativity in Timonium and St Joseph’s Parish in Cockeysville, where funerals were held on Monday.
Survivors include his 66-year-old wife, Virginia I. Cook; two sons, Thomas Grem of Towson and Steve Grem of Bel Air; one sister, Arlene Benzing of Ellicott City; five grandchildren; and two great-grandsons. A son, David Grem, died in 2015.