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Former president of Potomac Edison dies

September 14, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

Former Potomac Edison President Elmer B. Kaelin Jr. was a man with a strong sense of history, a devotion to modernizing the utility he headed for nine years and a keen eye toward the advancement of education.

Kaelin, who died Friday in Pennsylvania at the age of 82, was credited with putting more than $7 million worth of computers in classrooms in the utility's multistate service area while he was at the helm, according to published reports.

But Kaelin also had a wry sense of humor and fun, said C. William Davis, a local artist and former Potomac Edison employee who knew him well.

"When Elmer retired, I did a caricature of him on the face of Mount Rushmore alongside the four presidents," Davis said Friday from his Smithsburg studio.

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A large party was held in 1990 to honor Kaelin on his retirement, and the list of guests was quite impressive, according to published reports and Davis.

"I remember (then) Gov. William Donald Schaefer was amused at the caricature I did for Elmer," Davis said.

A year earlier, Schaefer had awarded Kaelin with the Pate Award, Maryland's highest recognition of outstanding business leadership and civic achievement.

That same year, Kaelin shared honors with Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson as a winner of the Maryland Award for Economic Excellence, according to published reports.

During Kaelin's tenure at the subsidiary of Allegheny Power, a goal to put at least one computer classroom in every elementary school in the surrounding area was achieved.

Kaelin also was committed to improving customer service, which prompted a change in company hours and installing electronic switches to monitor customer calls, cutting down on poor response to customer needs.

Davis said he did the art work for the company's Christmas cards for many years.

"Before Elmer, I always did churches, but he gave me more leeway," Davis said.

During the Kaelin years, Davis said he drew a landmark each holiday season for the company cards from a different area served by Potomac Edison, always with a careful eye toward fairness.

"He had a great sense of history," Davis said.

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