If there were a song that best described the life of Baltimore resident Charles Oberman, it would be Frank Sinatra’s “Young at Heart,” his family members say. Oberman, perhaps best known for his 40-plus years as a supervisory usher for the Orioles and at Royal Farms Arena, died on Jan. 23 at the age of 96.
“No matter what section of town we would go in, there would always be someone who knew him,” said his niece, Sandy Rosen who has been Oberman’s caretaker for the past seven years.
“I tried to get him to join the senior center and he refused because it’s all old people,” she joked. “What I’ve noticed about him the most, even in his last couple of senior years, is that he loved and embraced everybody. He was the most unpretentious person you ever you met.”
Oberman served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, where he was stationed in the Aleutian Islands between 1942 and 1945. One year later, he married Rose [Adelman] Oberman — a union that lasted more than 50 years until her death in 2009.
That was his life … The arena was really his second family. He saw generations come and go. Little boys who came to ice skate at the arena would [years later] take their own children to ice skate.
— Sandy Rosen, niece of Charles Oberman
Oberman began to work as an usher at what was then known as the Baltimore Civic Center when it opened in 1962. He often worked hockey games when the now-defunct AHL Baltimore Clippers were in town, and he had the opportunity to witness the Beatles’ only visit to Baltimore, in 1964.
“It was fantastic. I couldn’t see for an hour after the performance for all the flashbulbs that went off. The police had to move the horse patrols in to try to clear Howard Street,” Oberman told the Baltimore Sun in 1992, reflecting on the performance. His tenure at the arena has become the stuff of legend, even to the point of receiving recognition and a plaque from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake a few years back.
“That was his life. Not so much the Orioles, but the arena was really his second family,” Rosen said of Oberman’s career. “He saw generations come and go. Little boys who came to ice skate at the arena would [years later] take their own children to ice skate.”
Rosen said that her uncle had “a heart of gold” and taught everyone he knew to accept everyone despite their differences, and to be humble.
“He looked out for people,” she said.
Oberman’s son-in-law, Mark Donald, said his legacy will be the generations of Baltimoreans he got to know from his ushering days.
“Charlie was a very, very outgoing person,” Donald said. “He never met anybody he didn’t like. He was a people person.”