It deeply saddens us to announce that we lost an important member of our grading team and a dear friend this week - Phil Kaltenbach.
Philip X. Kaltenbach, a former high school English teacher who could elaborate with equal profundity on the genius behind such dissimilar cultural touchstones as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and the Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” died March 26 in Sarasota, FL
Mr. Kaltenbach, who was 63, died suddenly while recovering from foot surgery.
“Phil’s passions were wide-ranging and, always, vigorously defended,” said his brother, Chris, a reporter for the Baltimore Sun. “He had an opinion on almost everything, from the guitar on Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ to the narrative structure of ‘Apocalypse Now’ to the latest credit-card commercials on television. He helped instill in me an early and lasting love for comic books, the Orioles, pinball and, especially, the Rolling Stones that pointed me toward a career in writing about popular culture.”
A native of Towson, Mr. Kaltenbach attended Immaculate Conception Elementary School and Loyola Blakefield, as well as Loyola University Maryland (then Loyola College). He continued his postgraduate studies in English at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
In the early 80s, he cut short his pursuit of a doctorate to accept a teaching position at Blakefield, where he spent several years guiding students through the vagaries of English literature, often peppering his lectures with tales of being one of the fans at an early-‘70s Who concert who stormed the fence at Merriweather Post Pavilion, turning the show into an impromptu free event, or being in the stands at Memorial Stadium the day lead-footed Orioles catcher Gus Triandos hit an inside-the-park home run (after the 1983 baseball season, he could likewise brag about being at Memorial Stadium when O’s reliever Tippy Martinez picked three Blue Jays runners in succession off first base).
Mr. Kaltenbach later taught English at Archbishop Martin Spalding High School in Severn. After moving from Maryland to North Carolina in the late 80s, and later to New Jersey, he tried his hand at real estate and income-tax preparation, in addition to the occasional part-time teaching stint.
In 2001, Mr. Kaltenbach managed to find a job where he could immerse himself in the popular culture that so captivated him, working for the New Jersey-based Certified Guaranty Company. As a grader for CGC, he inspected, evaluated and assigned a grade based on the condition of collectible comic books – a job that dovetailed nicely with his 40-plus years as a comic collector. He later moved with the company when it re-located to Sarasota, FL, and, after several years of selling comics and other collectibles, had returned to CGC and was working there part-time at the time of his death. In recent weeks, he had talked often about a book club he’d recently joined there, speculating on whether his choice of novel for the group to read would be Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” or John Fowles’ “The Magus.”
Mr. Kaltenbach was never happier than when holding forth on music, and had a wealth of experiences to draw on. Although his father’s reluctance to let his 16-year-old son borrow the family car kept Mr. Kaltenbach from seeing The Beatles play in Washington, DC, he did see just about everyone else, from the Rolling Stones during their 1966 tour of the US to The Clash in 1980 and the fabled underground rock band The Residents at DC’s 9:30 Club in 2008. He was also a rabid, and sometimes admittedly indiscriminate, movie watcher; a log book in which he assiduously noted every film he watched contained well over 700 entries for 2011.
Even after moving to Florida, Mr. Kaltenbach frequently returned to Baltimore for visits that invariably included a Saturday-night poker game with a group of friends dating back to high school. In October 2009, he celebrated his 60th birthday with a party at the Silver Spring-based National Pinball Museum.
In addition to his brother, who lives in Linthicum, Mr. Kaltenbach is survived by his son, Philip Xavier Kaltenbach Merrick, of Florham Park, NJ, and another brother, Thomas H. Kaltenbach, of Fallston.
A memorial service is scheduled for Wednesday, April 3 at the Mitchell-Wiedefeld Funeral Home, 6500 York Rd.
Memorial contributions may be sent to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Certified Guaranty Company, LLC.
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