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John Baum, medical device purveyor and 'Renaissance man,' dies at 92

John C. Baum, an accomplished pianist and watercolorist,

John C. Baum, an accomplished pianist and watercolorist, died Dec. 14, 2014. Credit: Handout

Known for his gentlemanly dress and demeanor, John C. Baum also was an accomplished pianist and watercolorist who for 68 years worked at his family's business, the maker of blood pressure devices that for decades have been staples in most hospitals and doctors' offices.

Up until about a year ago, when he had a serious fall, Baum drove five days a week to the office of W.A. Baum Co. Inc. in Copiague, as well as to daily Mass in Bay Shore, his son said.

A longtime Brightwaters resident, Baum died Dec. 14 at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip of complications from colon cancer surgery. He was 92.

As attire has become increasingly casual, Baum continued to opt for suits or a suit jacket and tie, including wearing to Christmas events the Pendleton wool plaid jacket his father had passed down to him, said son Gerald F. Baum of Bay Shore. His father was polite, caring and "never had a bad word about anybody," Baum said.

With his family name on the Baumanometer, a blood pressure device that uses mercury, Baum "was an unknown Long Island luminary," said Dick Dunne, a retired Grumman executive who served for many years with him on the Good Samaritan hospital board.

Baum's father, William A., developed the device and founded the business in 1916, back in the days "when very few physicians were even measuring blood pressure," Baum, then company president, said in a 1997 Newsday article. At age 75, he also said retirement was not on his horizon: "They'll have to throw me out of here."

In recent years, the business has seen increased competition from new technologies and the move to mercury-free devices, his son said.

Born May 17, 1922, in Richmond Hill, Queens, Baum attended St. John's Preparatory School in Brooklyn. He earned an international commerce degree from Notre Dame University, his son said, and graduated a semester early in 1944 so he could enlist in the U.S. Army. Serving as a private and staff sergeant in Europe in World War II, he was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in France, his citation says.

Returning home in 1946, Baum went to work for the family business in a sales capacity. He also married his wife of 50 years, the former Doris Gilman, who died in 1996.

In addition to significant community service work through his parish, St. Patrick in Bay Shore, Baum also was an accomplished pianist and painter.

"He was just a Renaissance man," said another longtime associate from the Good Samaritan board, John Halleron III. Baum, who played in F sharp, specialized in American standards from the 1930s and 1940s, gifting his friends and family with CDs of his music.

Other survivors include sons John C. Baum Jr. of Gearhart, Oregon; James M. Baum of Bay Shore; Vincent S. Baum of Guilford, Connecticut; a daughter, Margaret Faber of Bay Shore; a brother, Richard Baum of Siler City, North Carolina; 14 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

A funeral Mass was said Dec. 18 at St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church, with burial in St. Patrick Cemetery, Bay Shore.

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