The life and legacy of Ed Bohrer
Sep. 2, 1998

by Jen Chaney


Staff Writer

September 2, 1998

When Ed Bohrer was growing up in Gaithersburg, he probably never dreamed he would one day be known as the city's "mayor for life."

But after his sudden death last week at the age of 58, there is no doubt that he will be remembered as the local boy who rose to become the leader of his hometown and left a legacy.

W. Edward Bohrer Jr. was born on Aug. 23, 1940, in a small house in what was then known as Crawfordtown, a section of Gaithersburg near Perry Parkway and Clopper Road. The family later moved to a house off Route 355.

Bohrer, the oldest of three children, attended Gaithersburg Elementary School and Gaithersburg High School. He joked that he was "not known for his athletic prowess," but his dynamic personality was evident from the beginning.

"He was a very popular young man who was active in a whole lot of different things," said Carroll Kearns, a former teacher at Gaithersburg High who later served on City Council.

Bohrer attended Montgomery College, the University of Maryland and American University, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in journalism. He often reminded reporters of his background in the field, which he left to pursue a career in insurance.

He worked as agency manager for People's Security Life Insurance Co. in Gaithersburg for more than 30 years before retiring in 1997.

While his commitment to the city of Gaithersburg was great, his devotion to his family was even greater.

He and wife Sharon ­ who brother-in-law Roy Green called the light of Bohrer's life ­ were married for 36 years, and had two children: daughter Paige Bohrer Greenwood, 35, and son Patrick, 30. In later years, four grandchildren also came along: Riley and Hunter Greenwood, and Haley and Zachary Bohrer.

He also is survived by his mother, Juanita, who still lives in Gaithersburg, and two sisters, Patricia Green and Vicki Conner.

He was a member of Epworth United Methodist Church, the National Association of Life Underwriters and the board of directors at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, just to name a few of his activities.

From 1974 to 1978, Bohrer was on the city's planning commission. In 1976 he was elected to the City Council and remained part of that body until 1986, the year he became mayor.

Among his accomplishments as mayor were:

*Establishment of the Wells-Robertson House for the homeless next to City Hall.

*Creation of the Summit Hall Farm Park Activity Center.

*Revitalization of Olde Towne Gaithersburg, an effort that got a jump start this year after city officials received the first installment of $5 million in state funding to help refurbish the area.

*Involvement in the development of the Kentlands community, a nationally recognized new "old town," and planning for the Lakelands, a residential community now under construction.

*The Character Counts! initiative, a national ethics program, that he ceaselessly promoted. Largely because of his efforts, the six pillars of Character Counts! -- responsibility, respect, trustworthiness, caring, fairness and citizenship -- have been incorporated into Gaithersburg's schools, businesses and government.

Bohrer, and the city, often were recognized for those accomplishments. Some awards include:

*The 1993 Governor's State of Maryland Main Street Award.

*The 1993 Maryland Municipal League Award for Excellence.

*The 1995 Outstanding Achievement Award for City Livability by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

*The Outstanding Citizen Award, presented to Bohrer by the Greater Gaithersburg Chamber of Commerce in 1997.

*The Good Scouter Award, presented to Bohrer by the Seneca chapter of the National Capital Area Council of Boy Scouts of America in May.

Bohrer led his city with a firm hand and a giving heart. His off-the-cuff witticisms often elicited laughter at city functions. With his sense of humor and infinite energy, Bohrer almost always added spice to routine City Council meetings.

When he was confronted with tough questions from the media, Bohrer usually came up with the perfect answer, spinning quotes that would make most presidential press secretaries green with envy.

If a developer showed him a proposal he did not like, Bohrer made no bones about saying he didn't like it. If a political challenger questioned his ethics, he shot back with a firm defense of his policies. And when anyone dared suggest that city officials should increase taxes in Gaithersburg, where the tax rate has stayed constant for 34 years, Bohrer bluntly said no way.

In January 1997, Bohrer suffered his first heart attack. After an angioplasty, he returned quickly to public life and announced his candidacy for a fourth term. He easily won that election in April.

Four months later, he had another heart attack, just nine hours before he was to give Gov. Parris Glendening a tour of Gaithersburg. That attack was nearly fatal and led to another angioplasty and valve replacement surgery. But once again, Ed Bohrer bounced back.

He continued cardiac rehabilitation, exercising and watching his diet, and lost 50 pounds in the process.

He also enthusiastically resumed his mayoral duties, which he carried out to the fullest until becoming ill two weeks ago.

Bohrer proudly proclaimed his devotion to Gaithersburg every chance he got, calling it "the best city in the best state in the best country in the world." According to his wife, Bohrer joked that he got a nosebleed every time he left his hometown.

Some wondered why Bohrer, a skilled politician, never aspired to higher office. But those who knew him realized Bohrer had already achieved what was the highest office in his mind -- mayor of the city of Gaithersburg.

During Monday's funeral service, Sharon Bohrer told a story about a man who came to pay his respects to the mayor during Sunday's viewing at Epworth United Methodist Church.

Sharon Bohrer said she had never met the man, but, in broken English, he assured her that "Mr. Mayor is in heaven now, doing his Gaithersburg thing."

Sharon Bohrer agreed he was probably right.

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