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Jack Saum: Building his dream

April 16, 2010
By Sue Kennedy, Chronicle columnist

The old saying "hit the ground running" means to get off to a brisk and successful start. The expression is usually reserved for those who are talented, focused and relentlessly hard-working in pursuit of success in business, in politics and in war. Rarely is it associated with the pursuit of the best things in lifelike having a life. I have no doubt however that if I had met Jack Saum in high school I would seen him even then as a someone who had hit the ground running toward the latter.

John Anthony Saum was born in the Panama Canal Zone. His father, John, was a Seabee in the US Navy. That's where the Navy man met and fell in love with the fair Louise Heim, daughter of Carolyn and George Heim. George's father was a civil engineer with the B&O railroad who came to the Panama Canal Zone for the Isthmus project.

Jack and Louise married and lived in Margaritaville. That's where their son Jack and daughter Karen were born. In 1950, the Navy transferred Officer Saum to Treasure Island Naval Base in San Francisco Bay. One year later the transfer was to Washington, DC. Saum eventually came off active duty but remained with the department as a civil engineer throughout his entire career.

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Jack Saum

The Saums settled in Northern Virginia where young Jack played football and ran track at Jeb Stuart High School. When it came time for college he chose the small but distinguished Kenyon University in Gambier, Ohio and economics as a major. Kenyon rose to fame with in 1939 with the advent of the Kenyon Review, a student-run literary magazine that from day one attracted literary giants, Robert Penn Warren, Robert Lowell, Flannery O'Connor and many others, as contributors to the magazine and to the campus as visiting professors.

The presence of literary giants notwithstanding, while home on break in his sophomore year Jack decided to leave Kenyon when he met Helen Smith. Helen was the daughter of the military attach to the Canadian Embassy. "I was on a blind date when I met Helen." Then he laughed "She wasn't my date." He was smitten and determined. So he transferred to American University, won the girl's heart and they were married in 1968.

After a year with Alexandria National Bank, Jack accepted a sales job with International Harvester's Alexandria branch. True to form he you guessed it, hit the ground running and selling trucks. Soon he was shooting up the management ladderfrom branch to zone to region.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Saum family was growing. First Jack Jr. came along, then Andrea and finally Kevin. 1980 brought a move to Sykesville, Md., and immediate involvement in the community, St. Barnabus Episcopal Church and Sykesville Middle School where Jack was elected president of the PTA. In their spare time Jack and Helen went into the restaurant business. "CSX was going to tear down the old train station so the town bought it for a dollar. The town wanted a fine dining restaurant. We had friends who were restaurateurs so we opened Baldwin's - on the old main line of the 1st railroad in America." He says this kind of thing with such delight as if to say "Sure, why not, sounds like fun."

In 1984 Jack joined Beltway International in Baltimore as the general manager. The owner of Beltway International was his friend Jack Murray. Friendship aside, both men could see a mutually beneficial business move here. Their vision proved correct. Sales shot up. Through good and bad times, people were buying trucks from Beltway International. "I worked for Jack (Murray) for fourteen years and when he decided to retire I bought the business from him. That was thirteen years ago."

Under Jack's leadership the company grew to six locations throughout Maryland and in Delaware. The Saums moved to a big, beautiful waterfront home in Cambridge on the Eastern Shore. Jack and Kevin went off to St. Mary's College and Andrea chose Salisbury. Everyone close enough for weekends at home.

In 2008 Beltway International became Beltway Companies to include all of the brands it now represents. It has earned no less than fifty Navistar awards for excellence in everything from management to operations to dealership. Jack attributes much of the company's success to his employees, their commitment to long-term customer relationships and innovative programs like "A New Truck Is a Green Truck," a campaign promoting eco-friendly truck technologies.

Today Jack, Jr. and Kevin are in business with Dad, now the chairman. Jack Jr. is at the helm as president and Kevin heads up the parts operations. Andrea, University of Maryland School of Law School graduate, is an assistant attorney general for the State of Maryland. And they're all married with children. Jack and Jeanne live in Davidsonville with Molly (11), Paul (9) and Carly who'll turn four in May. Andrea and Jeff Baker and eight year old Dylan live in Cooksville. And Kevin and Lynn live in Eldersburg with Jessie (9), Alyssa (7) and Samantha who will also turn four in May. The seven young cousins are a beautiful bunch of best friends.

In the summer of 2008 Jack and Helen took a day trip to Shepherdstown to catch up with friends. They were no strangers to town as Andrea had lived here fresh out of law school while working for Bowles Rice. And Jack had joined Cress Creek in the mid-nineties after playing the course with long-time buddy Hank Walters. Yes indeed, the Saums had friends, had fun and had fallen in love with the town. They still had their home in Cambridge and another in Keane, NH, but it was on that summer day in Shepherdstown they went from visitor to townsfolk. Jim Pantle's 200 year-old house on West German Street went on the market, Jack and Helen love historic homes, they saw it and bought it. Boom, just like thatone day.

It took another day to move in, hang all the pictures and turn the house into a home.

It took a tad longer to perfect it. The house is great. It's comfortably exquisite and you get the feeling it's been their home forever.

As a bonus, the couple found they now lived in the very friendly German Street "neighborhood." Rotary, Friends of the Library, Friends of Music soon had their commitment. "I've been so impressed with the music department. And the kids seem to be having fun. It's a valuable asset to the community." The Saums were founding members of the Two Rivers Chamber Orchestra before they were residents and funded the first-chair violin. Tuxedo Junction is the annual fundraiser for SU Friends of Music. The Saums were recruited by Rob Northrup to head up this year's event on May 7th. From the first concert the Saums have been committed to the FOM mission of supporting excellence in music at Shepherd University and so they accepted - Helen as chair and Jack as co-chair. As you can well imagine, the planning committee is running like a Swiss watch. The 3rd Annual Tuxedo Junction will have the Helen and Jack Saum touch: elegance, lots of fun and full of surprises.

Jack has been nominated for National Truck Dealer of the Year. The winner will be announced at the 47th annual American Truck Dealers Convention and Expo in Orlando, Florida next week. (April 24) There are just a handful of nominees and the family will be there to cheer for their favorite truck dealer. This event is major.

Yes, Jack Saum has hit the ground running toward a wonderful life for a long time.

Along the way he's managed to stop, appreciate, give thanks and give back.

So after all the grown-up stuff on the 24th, where next? Jack, Helen and seven of the neatest kids in the world will be running toward the Magic Kingdom.

 
 
 

 

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