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Obituary (ME): Charles Annistone Orem '50

Posted on 04/15/2018

Cmdr. Charles A. "Skip" Orem, retired U. S. Navy, died on March 1, 2018, as the result of an accident while on vacation in the Caribbean.

The son of Vice Admiral and Mrs. Howard E. Orem, he was born in Bryn Mawr, Pa., on April 1, 1929.

Skip graduated with the class of 1946, from St. Albans School, Washington, D.C. Entering the U.S. Naval Academy, he graduated with a degree in engineering, and was commissioned an Ensign in the Navy in June 1950.

He married Gerry Wellborn, of Washington D.C., on June 15, 1951.

He continued his education, graduating from U.S. Naval Submarine School in June 1952, and from U.S. Naval Postgraduate School with a master's degree in electrical engineering in 1960.

Over the course of his 20-year navy career, Skip served on seven different ships of the U.S. Navy, and finally was commissioning commanding officer of the USS Simon Bolivar (SSBN 641). After two-and-a-half years in command of "Bolivar," he was assigned to the office of the chief of naval operations, where he served as submarine and undersea warfare specialist. Skip retired from the Navy in 1970.

On retirement, he joined Babcock & Wilcox Company, where he served in a variety of senior management positions, including director of corporate planning and development. In 1979, he was recruited to be president and chief executive officer of Bird-Johnson Company, a Swedish-owned, U.S.-based manufacturer of ship propellers and propulsion equipment.

During his tenure at Bird-Johnson, Skip grew the company from a small domestic supplier, to the second largest propeller and associated equipment company in the world. At his retirement from Bird-Johnson in 1991, the company had operations in four states, and five foreign countries.

Skip then volunteered for the International Executive Service Corps (I.E.S.C.). His first assignment with that organization was in Prague, Czechoslovakia, where he and four other I.E.S.C. volunteers, with their wives, assisted the Czech government in writing and implementing the plan for privatizing Czech industry. He was formally commended by the Czech government for his contribution to this national effort.

Subsequently, Skip performed I.E.S.C. volunteer work in Tomsk, Siberia.

In 1993, he and his wife retired to the coast of Maine, where they built their dream house on Casco Bay. In Maine, Skip was active with SCORE, a partner of the Small Business Administration, assisting entrepreneurs and small business owners in establishing and managing their businesses. He served as chairman of the Portland chapter from 1997-1999; as coordinator for all SCORE seminar and workshop activity in the New England region from 1996-2003; and as district director for the Maine district of SCORE from 2003-2007.

He was an enthusiastic and active docent and tour guide at the Maine Maritime Museum (M.M.M.), and Admiral Peary's Eagle Island. Skip was a trustee emeritus of the M.M.M., and also served on the boards of the Portland Symphony Orchestra, the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ, and the Casco Bay Council of the Navy League of the United States.

He used his exceptional talents to write strategic plans for the Kotzschmar Organ and the M.M.M. that significantly enhanced their levels of activity and outreach. He also assisted in strategic plan development for the Portland Symphony Orchestra and the First Parish Church in Brunswick.

In their retirement years, the Orems travelled extensively to learn the history, culture and arts of many countries. They visited all seven continents, and over 70 countries.

Avid sailors, they cruised the waters of the coasts of Maine, British Columbia, the Society Islands in the Pacific, and extensively explored the Caribbean.

Skip was a trained singer, the bass-baritone soloist for the Naval Academy Choir. He and his wife, Gerry, loved singing in church choirs, wherever they lived. He was also an enthusiastic golfer.

He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Gerry Wellborn Orem, of Brunswick; three daughters: Nancy Orem-Duggan and her husband, Neal, of Maryland; Catherine Jackson, of South Carolina; and Sarah Schaffer and her husband, Greg, of Massachusetts; four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

The family wants to thank their many friends for all the flowers, cards, and letters of condolence, affection and support they have received.

Memorial services will be held at the First Parish Church, Brunswick, at a later date. Interment will be in the Orem family plot at the U. S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md.

Arrangements are under the care of Stetson's Funeral Home, Brunswick, where memorial condolences may be expressed at

The family asks, in lieu of flowers, please consider a memorial gift to: First Parish Church, Brunswick, Maine Maritime Museum, Bath, Portland Symphony Orchestra, Portland.

Stetson's Funeral Home
12 Federal St
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 725-4341

Published in Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on Apr. 15, 2018