John C. Stidman, an artist and pioneer of WMAR-TV who spent 38 years at the city's first television station as a director and producer, died Wednesday of complications from a fall at the Presbyterian Home of Maryland in Towson. The longtime North Baltimore resident was 90.
John Charles Stidman was born in Baltimore and raised in the Forest Park neighborhood, the son of Amos F. Stidman, a broom salesman, and Florence Eder Stidman, a manicurist.
He graduated from Forest Park High School in 1940 and the University of Maryland in 1944, with a bachelor's degree in science and plans for medical school.
He served as a medic in the Army infantry on the European front in World War II, including at the Battle of the Bulge, and received the Purple Heart for injuries he received. But after returning from the war, instead of pursuing medicine, he got a job as a science teacher at Patterson Park High School.
"He did everything he could to save people's lives and that meant a lot to him," said a daughter, Janet Edith Stidman Eveleth of Towson. "After seeing so much destruction and death, he didn't want to be a doctor anymore."
Mr. Stidman taught at Patterson Park for two years before being offered a position as director of the music library at WMAR-TV, the 11th television station in the nation, in 1948. He took the job, anticipating the rapid growth of television, said Dudley Kruhm, who worked alongside Mr. Stidman at the station in the late 1940s and remained a lifelong friend.
The work involved selecting background music for broadcasts, which played on records, Mr. Kruhm said. But Mr. Stidman was quickly promoted to work as a director, producer and supervisor for the rest of his career at WMAR.
"He had a calm attitude for that hectic job," Mr. Kruhm said.
Mr. Stidman helped write and direct shows including "The Early Riser," "Bozo the Clown," "Professor Kool's Fun Skool" and "Dialing for Dollars," all starring local personality Stu Kerr.
Mr. Stidman also made a rare appearance in front of the camera on "Dialing for Dollars," regularly standing as the guard protecting the game show's prize money.
He was known at the station for his sense of humor, always with a clever nickname or witty comment, but also for a commitment to quality programs, colleagues said.
"John was pesty at being a perfectionist," said Edgar Kremer, who worked alongside Mr. Stidman as a technician in 1958. "He would not let even the smallest item that was not exactly perfect get by him."
Other programs he helped produce included "The Woman's Angle," "Youth Speaks" with Eleanor Arnett Nash and news broadcasts. He worked at the station until his retirement in 1986.
Despite his background in science, Mr. Stidman was also a lifelong artist and musician, his daughter said. He wrote poetry from the battlefield during World War II and played the organ, piano and clarinet.
In his retirement, Mr. Stidman pursued the arts with more fervor, painting hundreds of oil and watercolor paintings, many on commission.
He frequently painted scenes of old Baltimore and its architecture, including historic Johns Hopkins University buildings, as well as of Colonial Williamsburg. He donated a painting of Baltimore streetcars, which he rode to work for years, to the Baltimore Streetcar Museum to be displayed, Ms. Eveleth said.
Mr. Stidman was also known for an elaborate array of model trains he would lay out in his basement.
He was an active member of Grace United Methodist Church for 60 years.
His wife of 61 years, Edith Janet Scales Stidman, died in 2009.
Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Monday at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Stidman is survived by a son, John Scales Stidman of Salisbury.