Thomas B.T. Baldwin, 95, sales executive who helped bring jobs to rural Delco

Thomas B.T. Baldwin, 95, of Media, a sales executive who helped bring jobs to Concordville when it was still a rural backwater of Delaware County, died Tuesday, Oct. 10, from multiple ailments related to aging at Chester County Hospital, West Chester.

Camera icon Courtesy of the family
Thomas B.T. Baldwin with great-grandson Eli Hanlon.

Mr. Baldwin was born in a house on Station Way Road in Chadds Ford, and for decades he liked to joke that he had never spent a day in a hospital, said his son, Tom Jr.

Mr. Baldwin’s first job was bicycling through Media’s shadowy streets in the morning to deliver the newspaper, and retracing the route in the afternoon to deliver the evening paper.

He graduated from Media High School.

Mr. Baldwin met Lucille Hodgen, also of Media, at a dancing class. “We were 13, and she had me good,” he told his family. The two married in 1946 and were together until her death in 2014.

Mr. Baldwin served in the Eighth Army Air Force in World War II, and was deployed to a base in Britain, near Freckleton.

After the war, he enrolled as a predental student at the University of Pennsylvania, but once he and his wife started a family, he decided against a career as a dentist.

Instead, Mr. Baldwin became a salesman and sales manager for Southco Inc., a maker of industrial-grade fasteners for items made from aluminum sheeting as well as steel doors and the panels on a fire truck or aircraft interior. He worked there from the mid-1940s to the mid-1980s.

Southco began operations in a cramped building on the Delaware River, south of Philadelphia International Airport. But in 1965, when new employees and more space were needed to meet the burgeoning demand for industrial fasteners as well as military hardware, the company moved from Lester to a bigger plant in Concordville. The southwestern area of Delaware County was largely undeveloped at the time.

Mr. Baldwin was part of the executive team that supervised the relocation project, his son said. As sales manager, Mr. Baldwin also was responsible for hiring workers to beef up the national sales team.

The initial dozen workers at the Concordville headquarters grew to scores during Mr. Baldwin’s tenure. But all hiring was done with an eye to not straining the corporate budget.

“We never borrowed, we never owed a penny,” Mr. Baldwin liked to tell his family, his son said. “If we lacked the money, we did not do it. Simple as that.”

When he retired from Southco, Mr. Baldwin started a home business as a manufacturer’s representative – making sales calls, going to trade shows, and raising the profile of his client companies in any way he could.

“He had an office in the basement, but he was on the road a lot,” his son said. “He was quite successful.” He retired for good in 2000.

His favorite leisure activities were spending time with his family and black Labrador retrievers, playing golf, rooting for the Phillies, and going to his gunning and fly-fishing shack on the border of Lycoming and Potter Counties in north-central Pennsylvania.

Mr. Baldwin lived on pastoral Crum Creek Road in Nether Providence Township, and maintained a vacation cottage in Stone Harbor, N.J.

He liked to tell people he was a member in good standing of the “Swarthmore Reading Club,” a light-hearted reference to the floating poker game he enjoyed.

“It was penny-nickel [a hand], not even nickel-dime,” he used to say, according to his son.

Mr. Baldwin was the grandson of Richard J. Baldwin, a Republican who served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1897 to 1918, and the state Senate from 1919 to 1920. He was speaker of the House in 1917 and 1918. Richard Baldwin represented a largely Republican Delaware County legislative district. He was known as operator of the Chadds Ford General Store on Baltimore Pike, now the site of the Antica Italian Restaurant.

Mr. Baldwin enjoyed singing with the Valley Voices, a men’s choir in Rose Valley. He had a beautiful tenor voice and played the piano.

“When my mother was getting dressed for their Saturday night out, he would sit at the piano and serenade her with show tunes,” Tom Baldwin Jr. said.

Besides his son, Mr. Baldwin is survived by son Christopher, two granddaughters, and a great-grandson.

Services on Sunday, Oct. 15, were private.