Harry Ratrie Jr., highway industry businessman

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Harry Ratrie Jr., a World War II and Korean War veteran who became a leading businessman in Maryland's highway construction industry, died Dec. 8 of a heart attack at a hospital in Naples, Fla.

The longtime Baltimore County resident, who moved to Florida in his later years, was 90.

Mr. Ratrie was the retired founder, CEO and board chairman of Bryn Awel Corp., an asphalt paving and highway construction firm and the parent company of smaller construction, paving and recycling companies in the Baltimore region. He also sat on a number of boards for industry associations, local groups and clubs.

"He was always up early, raring to go. Nothing really stopped him," said his son, Tom Ratrie, of Towson. "He must have had a half-dozen or more strokes and kept playing golf. He was definitely a tough cookie."

Mr. Ratrie, who was born in Baltimore, was the son of Harry Ratrie Sr., who worked for AT&T, and Mary Feast Ratrie, who worked in insurance for the state. He graduated from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in 1940 and went on to the Virginia Military Institute. In the midst of his studies, in 1943, he was commissioned an officer in the Marine Corps, and he designed and engineered airports in the Pacific during World War II.

After the war, he returned to VMI and earned a degree in civil engineering in 1947, before being called back to service during the Korean War. He went on to serve in the Marine Corps Reserve until 1966, when he retired with the rank of major.

Mr. Ratrie's first marriage to Roberta Zerr, with whom he had three sons, ended in divorce. In the mid-1960s, he married Dahlia Jean Biondini, who had three daughters of her own, and the couple merged their large families.

"He was always very much family-oriented," said Tom Ratrie, Mr. Ratrie's son by his second wife. "Our family, we were essentially the Brady Bunch plus one."

After his second wife's death in 2006 after 41 years of marriage, Mr. Ratrie married Nancy Crum Pryor in 2008, extending his family once more.

"Even with the new family, even at 80-plus years old, he was still trying to make sure that everybody was family and everybody was together," his son said.

Mr. Ratrie built a career in civil engineering, first at Whitman, Requardt & Associates, then Drummond & Co. through the early 1960s. In 1963, he founded highway construction firm Ratrie, Robbins & Schweizer with partners Archer I. Schweizer and Augustus Robbins III, and in 1980 founded the Bryn Awel Corp.

Mr. Ratrie lived for many years at the Bryn Awel Estate on Jarrettsville Pike, overlooking Loch Raven Reservoir, and later lived in the Mays Chapel area before moving to Florida. He was an avid tennis and golf player.

"He remained an amazing and inspiring guy forever," said another son, Hank Ratrie of Baltimore. "He was just the kind of person that everybody enjoyed being around. He was very caring, had a great sense of humor, he was such a dependable friend. I know there will be people at the funeral who have known him for 80 years plus. He just had people who stuck with him."

Mr. Ratrie also regularly played poker with a group of friends for 65 years, his son said.

Mr. Ratrie held board positions over the years with the National Asphalt Pavement Association, Maryland Highway Contractors Association, Maryland Asphalt Association, Greater Baltimore Medical Center Foundation, Baltimore County Development Commission, Baltimore Opera Company and several area country clubs.

He was selected as a distinguished alumnus of Poly in 1994 and was a finalist for Maryland Entrepreneur of the Year in 1995.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Stephen's Anglican Church, at 11856 Mays Chapel Road in Timonium.

In addition to his sons Tom and Hank, Mr. Ratrie is survived by his wife; son Michael Ratrie of Mount Dora, Fla.; stepsons C. Richard Bell Jr. of Reisterstown and Scott Crum Bell of Baltimore; stepdaughters Sheila Pinsch of Phoenix in Baltimore County, Pamela Marquess of Timonium, and Mitzi Pryor Brandon of Phoenix; nine grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by a son, Robert Ratrie, and a stepdaughter, Debra Burgess.

krector@baltsun.com

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