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“no man could be fonder of a friend” [VALL]  

John F. Baesch, BSI (“State and Merton County Railroad") died on November 14, 2023 at the age of 78.

This entry is going to be necessarily long, because John Baesch was a man of varied interests and many friends. We have a number of contributions from people in various areas of John’s Sherlockian orbit, but keep in mind that these entries are only from the Sherlockian facet of his life; he enjoyed many others as well. 

And most of all, because he was one of my longest-standing friends in the Sherlockian world.

A Personal Recollection

John was warm and welcoming, and eagerly engaged all newcomers to the community, because he was once one too, and knew what it was like to be a shy stranger in a room full of people who know each other.

This is one of the many ways John’s Catholic faith crept into his hobbies. He modeled his behavior on Jesus in Matthew 25: 31-40: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

First Meeting

To meet John is to never be a stranger to him. The first time we met was at an annual dinner of the Speckled Band of Boston in 1991; it was the first Band dinner for each of us. As guests and members milled about during the cocktail hour on the ground floor of the Tavern Club, he approached me and remarked that it was nice to see a younger person at the event (I was still in college at the time).

John, who was always interested in education, asked which school was my alma mater and what I was studying. When I told him I studied classics at Boston University, his face lit up at the realization that a fellow classics major stood before him. He told me about working for Amtrak, living on the water in South Boston on the second floor of a two-family house, and we shared our admiration for Sherlock Holmes.

We exchanged addresses, and before long were regular correspondents. We brunched together on occasional Saturdays and counted the weeks and days until the next Speckled Band meeting. 

He invariably greeted me with “W. Scott!” or “Friend Scott!” when we got together, and our conversations often turned to other topics of mutual interest, many of which were connected to other clubs and organizations. And this is a critical detail to understanding John: John was a joiner.

If there was something John was interested in and there was an organized group of people, John would join it. The Titanic Historical Society, the English-Speaking Union, the Wodehouse Society, the Gilbert & Sullivan Society, and of course, dozens of Sherlockian societies. It’s not like he was jumping on bandwagons (one could scarcely call any of these groups or interests trendy); it was simply this: John loved being around people.

So he when he discovered that I liked the Titanic, he encouraged me to join the THS. He introduced me to the lovely garden parties of the ESU in Boston. He consulted with me and gallivanted around Boston with me to find suitable venues for the biennial meeting of The Wodehouse Society.

In a Communicative Humor

In my years as a graduate student at BU, John became a mentor and active participant as I established the Bull-Terrier Club there. He helped to plan many of our events, including going to the racetrack, polo matches, the New England Aquarium, and more. He even wrote a standing toast to the bull-terrier. Always willing to regale us with stories, John was invested in the group as “In a Communicative Humour.”

He even penned the official Toast to the Bull-Terrier:

To the Bull-Terrier: Now let us drink to man's best friend, Who didst our hero's flesh once rend. The happy dog near chapel roamed, To get a taste of Sherlock Holmes. As for our hero, he did rankle, A bull-terrier frozen to his ankle. O happy bite, which started all, Adventures, cases, great and small. So let our joy now have no barrier, We raise our glasses to the Bull-Terrier.

John was always one to communicate, whether in person or via the post. He was an enthusiastic correspondent, sending postcards, greeting cards, letters, and CARE packages filled with clippings from newspapers, magazines, church bulletins or photocopies of items in books. He was always thinking of the people who shared his interests, and his thoughtful notes showed it.


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He would often send cards that memorialized some of those things, such as a postcard from Keen's Chop House (where early Gillette Lunches were held during the BSI Weekends) or an annual greeting card noting the date of the sinking of the Titanic. And he always wrote with his beloved Montblanc ballpoint pen that he kept with him everywhere he went.



Talk a little, eat a little

The conversation with John in person was always memorable. If he found something particularly funny, his laugh would rise to the level of a cackle, and you couldn’t help laughing along. He was so mirthful that way. 

And if you were with him during one of those lunches, it typically involved a bacon cheeseburger that occupied John’s attention during one of his stories. He’d remove the lettuce (“Who am I to take food from the mouths of hungry rabbits?” he’d rhetorically ask.), pile on the ketchup and Grey Poupon, and take a bite in the middle of a sentence. Literally in the middle. So you had to wait for him to finish chewing before you could respond or know what he’d say.

At brunch, he ordered coffee quickly, but let it sit on the table for almost too long — long enough, it turned out, so it would be a temperature that allowed him to quaff the entire thing in one gulp, thus delivering a quick jolt of caffeine to his system.

Related to coffee — since we spent time around Boston, we invariably saw tourists with t-shirts and sweatshirts from The Black Dog, a popular tavern in Martha’s Vineyard. Every time someone like that passed us on the street, John would say, “Oh, look at MEEEEE! I went to Martha’s Vineyard!” When he moved from Boston, John gifted me with a pair of coffee mugs from The Black Dog.

A Boston Legacy

That move from Boston to Philadelphia took place in 1996, after a year or so of John temporarily living at the Union League Club there. John was in Boston for my graduation from grad school, which was also the year our mutual friend Josh Shafer graduated.

Josh was also a member of the Bull-Terriers and gladly participated in some of the Sherlockian hijinks with John and me, including appearing with us on stage at a Speckled Band meeting in 1994 as Watson to our Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes, and heading to Autumn in Baker Street.


The blue button-down brigade at Autumn in Baker Street

When Josh, as a junior, applied to BU’s study abroad program at Oxford, John and I said we’d visit him if he got in. Sure enough, he did, and John and I made good on the promise in March of 1995. When we were in London and Oxford — places John had visited many times — I couldn’t help but notice John’s sheer joy. I wondered aloud why he was having such a good time if he had already been there. And I’ll never forget his reply:

“It’s the ‘hey wow factor’ — I get to watch you experience all of this for the first time, and it brings back the same feelings I had when I first saw it.”

And that was an important part of life for John: being happy for other people. Having been a confirmed bachelor until he was in his fifties, John always called love “the great spectator sport,” and he derived great satisfaction in seeing love bloom between young people. Which makes great sense why so many people cheered on John when he met and married Evy Herzog, the great love of his life.

First BSI Weekend

The year following our London trip was the first time I was invited to the BSI Dinner, and John was there to offer encouragement, guidance, and to be a roommate. That ‘hey wow factor’ was still in play. As part of the experience, we attended Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera (a couple of Boston Sherlockians enjoyed going to the opera in NYC). And going with John — decidedly not an opera fan, but a fan of Cardinal Tosca (which became a great Halloween costume) — was a Baeschian experience.

During Act I, John was so enthralled with the Latin Mass portion of the opera that he began to sing along in Latin out loud during the performance. That turned a few heads. And then, in a more subdued section in either Act 2 or Act 3, he fell asleep and began to snore, at the same volume of his singing. That turned a few heads too. It made for a memorable BSI weekend.

From Boston to Philly

After I graduated in 1996, John shared that he was moving to Philadelphia permanently, so I inquired, “What’s going on with your apartment?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” was John’s reply.

Josh and I both expressed interest and John offered us advice if we were to pass the standard of the landlord of 1836 Columbia Road in South Boston. He turned to Josh and said, “You, dress like a hockey player.” Turning to me, he said, “And you, dress like you’re Catholic.” It worked.


1836 was a shrine to John’s passions, one of which was railroad and hotel china. Everywhere John went, he collected it, either in original or reproduction. He even left me a set of Delta First Class cups and plates. 

When we helped John pack up, we found one room had bookcases against every wall and a huge pile of books in the center of the room. As we were boxing things up in a different room, we heard John scream from that room, “OH MY GOD!!

Thinking the bookscases had collapsed on him, we rushed into the room to find out what happened. John exclaimed, “There’s a CHAIR under this pile!”

There are still things from 1836 that John left behind for me that remain with me to this day that remind me of him — a pair of L.L. Bean boots, vintage tins to hold medical supplies, Penhaligon’s cologne, railway travel kits, a number of bow ties and neckties, the Delta cups and Black Dog mugs, a love of Blenheim ginger ale…

But most are the memories of just enjoying life in his presence. John’s insatiable curiosity and interest in other people made him well-respected and well-regarded by everyone who met him.

To make a friend of John Baesch was to make a friend for life. 

John with Susan Rice

John had a wide circle of friends in the Sherlockian community, and a few of them graciously agreed to share their memories of John.

Sherry Rose-Bond, BSI (“Violet Hunter”)

When I heard about our loss of John Baesch, so many memories of him began tumbling about in my mind.  When I was asked to share some of these thoughts with others, three memories came to the fore because they represent some of the attributes that defined John.  

When John came to his first meeting of The Clients of Sherlock Holmes, in Philadelphia, it was obvious that he didn’t know what to expect.  He stood in the doorway of our meeting room, hesitating to enter and appearing that he might retreat at any moment.  Would he be made welcome?  Would the discussions that evening be ultra-academic and outside his experience?  Would he meet anyone with whom he could engage in conversation?  (I know that these were some of his thoughts because he shared them with me months later).  When I saw him at the door, I saw his hesitation and went over to both welcome him and to draw him into the group.  

Ultimately, I embraced him, both figuratively and literally, and we became friends. After that first meeting, John became a regular attendee and participant in Clients’ events. There was a certain shyness to John that was entirely appealing.  However, once he became comfortable in someone’s company, all that shyness dissipated.  He was so accomplished both professionally (and, later, in the Sherlockian world) that his hesitancy to assert himself was surprising.  However, this was one manifestation of John’s innate modesty.  

Some years later, John was in London and Scott and I were on one of our semi-annual visits to England.  We were in Derbyshire for a few days when we decided to drive down to Manchester to visit the Grenada Television Studio’s exhibitions, most particularly the interactive and the museum features having to do with Sherlock Holmes.  While wandering through the display area containing huge glass cases containing memorabilia used in the production of the Jeremy Brett series, we literally bumped into John!  He and a friend had come up from London for the day for the same purpose as ours.  Although he had seen John a month or so before that, he greeted us as if we hadn’t been together for years! 

We were as delighted to see him as he was to encounter us and there were hugs all around.  We spent the rest of that visit and the rest of the delightful day together.  Again, it was typical of John that friends were more than just friends but were virtual family.  It was as if we had known him all of our lives!

My third fond memory of John is, perhaps, the most significant.  Scott and I were at a Scion meeting and there was John.  Of course, we sat down to catch up on our Sherlockian and personal activities since the last time we had been together.  John looked a bit woebegone and, naturally, I asked why he was sad.  He told us that he realized that he had really begun to like Evy Herzog but was reluctant to ask her out.  As part of a long-time Sherlockian couple myself, I thought that they would be a great couple, so I asked him why he hesitated.  I’ll never forget his response.  “Because SHE’S Evelyn Herzog!”  

I looked at him in amazement and replied, “But YOU’RE John Baesch!”  

We encouraged him to follow up on his feelings (as, I might add, did a number of others) and to ask Evy out on a date. The rest is Sherlockian history!  We were so pleased that Evy and John found each other and ultimately shared two decades of love and happiness (and Sherlockiana). 

 It’s that thought that warms my heart as I think of our friend, John Baesch, and it helps me to deal with our shared loss.  G-d bless you, John.

John Genova, BSI (“Harry Pinner”)

I first met John Baesch at the National Press Club in Washington in December 1997. I learned of his passing while at my office in Rome in November 2023. During those 26 years, half my life, John was my closest friend. I am the same age now as John was when I met him. I believe if it were not for meeting John in 1997, I’d never really have become a Sherlockian. With Covid and John’s illness and my moving to Europe, I hadn’t seen John in his final years, but he was always on my mind during our absences.

In the spring of 1997, I was a first-year law student in Washington, DC. There is an old saying that law school scares one to death in the first year, works one to death in the second year, and bores one to death in the third year. For me, the “bore one to death” came two years early. 

Tired and bored of the first-year curriculum of Contracts, Torts Civil Procedure, etc., I found myself at the public library browsing the bookshelves. From there I spotted a thick book with a brown and yellow cover – The Complete Sherlock Holmes. I know now that it was a Doubleday edition, but I had no idea then, nor I’m sure, did I much care.

As I turned the pages deciding whether I should check the book out, I came across the Hound of the Baskervilles. I had heard of this story but never read it. Seeing that much of the book was short stories – perfect for a busy law student – I checked the book out.

About a month or two later I finished the entire book. I enjoyed it so much that I planned to stop in London before my summer study abroad program in Salzburg.  I had to see Baker Street and the Sherlock Holmes Museum. It never occurred to me that there were people called “Sherlockians” who attend things called “scion societies.” 

After my return to Washington from Europe that summer, I began searching the internet for all things Sherlockian. I had come across a local society called the Red Circle of Washington. After making inquiries and reservations with Peter Blau, I attended my first scion society in December 1997. It was a Friday evening if I remember correctly and, in those days, the Red Circle of Washington met at the National Press Club.

I first gravitated to Peter as the host thanking him for the invitation. It was my first time at the National Press Club and so was taking it all in. As I looked at the photos on the walls, a person I had never met before came up to me and began explaining the photos on the walls. And then with a big smile he extended his hand and said “John Baesch.” 

We sat down together for dinner. I had just met John that evening, but I found him to be one of the most interesting and engaging people I had ever met. John asked me where I was from and when I told him Scranton, he told me that he had visited a famous train in Scranton. He knew of its coal mining history and even the school colors of the local Jesuit college that I attended. This all being before The Office made Scranton famous, I had never met anyone who had even heard of Scranton let alone been there but that was John. 

He always seemed to know a little bit about everything. At that dinner he told me about the New York events, the Baker Street Irregulars and about the Sherlockian world in general. John knew a lot of people and had a lot of interests – especially British interests. 

After that evening, John and I would have a lifelong friendship. As a busy student I was too engaged with my studies in Washington to travel to Sherlockian events, but John kept in touch with me. I received postcards almost weekly from faraway places such as Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Palm Beach, Seattle. 

John traveled a lot in those days while working for Amtrak. Each time he returned to Washington on business, we would meet for a burger at the Dubliner just down the street from Union Station. I checked Google Maps at the time of this writing (February 2024) and sure enough the Dubliner is still there. Years later I would kid with John that we should go back to the Dubliner just once for old time’s sake. We never did, unfortunately. 

By 1999, I finished law school and moved to Philadelphia for a short time. John was living in Rosemont on the Main Line just outside of Philadelphia. I remember he was active with St. Francis of Xavier Church (which he lovingly referred to as St. Franny’s) and with a friend from Amtrak. He sent me a nice note with words of encouragement right before I sat for the Bar Exam out at the Valley Forge Convention Center. Later in 1999, John left Amtrak for Parsons Brinkerhoff in London and I left for a job in New York City. During his time in London, I received wonderful postcards from all over London and the U.K. and other parts of Europe. 

When John returned from London, and after his marriage, our new “Dubliner” would be PJ Clarke’s on Third Avenue and Old Town Bar on E. 18th Street – both in New York. Sometimes it would be just John and me and sometimes Evelyn would join us. The conversation was always easy and cordial and usually involved a book, a recent trip, baseball, or the goings on in the world of Holmes. Even if we hadn’t seen each other in a long time, each time we would meet was if we had just seen each other the day before. 

I am not certain of this, but I am pretty sure John was helpful in persuading Mike Whelan to invite me to the BSI Dinner at the Union League Club in New York and to grant me an eventual investiture in 2006. 

We attended many different scion societies together at the Speckled Band of Boston, Sons of the Copper Beeches in Philadelphia, Six Napoleons of Baltimore, and even attended an Orioles-Red Sox game in his native Baltimore. 

The things I will always remember about John are his conversational skills, his command of the English language, his Christmas letters, postcards, good humor, modesty, charity, humanity, inclusiveness, honor, sense of fair play and thoughtfulness. I live and work in Milan now and so I will say, in the spirit of the Red Circle where we met: Riposa in pace.

Thomas Drucker

I first met John at the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Philadelphia in July 1996. We both went up after a talk to ask a question of the speaker and fell into speaking. When we learned that we were both devotees of Sherlock Holmes, we easily decided to keep in touch.   

I didn’t realize at the time what keeping in touch with John entailed. He was the most indefatigable correspondent of my life (and some others weren’t all that fatigable, either). The regularity with which envelopes of various shapes and sizes would arrive was striking, to say nothing of the variety of stationery from hotels and clubs that he employed. He kept me up to date with clippings on the chess world, but there was also plenty to read about railroads, penguins, Lewis Carroll, and friends of his from Baltimore. He would send issues of the magazines of various Savoyard organizations.  It’s worth making special mention of the items having to do with Jewish-Catholic relations and dialogue.   One of the topics to which he often recurred was the defense of Pope Pius XII against accusations that he had failed to do ‘enough’ to rescue European Jews. 

I was also the recipient of a healthy supply of souvenirs from the Birthday weekends in New York. John had sounded me out about my interest in attending the BSI dinner, but I still had reservations from its history of  regarding women as second-class Sherlockians. Of course, I never did make it to London for any meetings of the Sherlock Holmes Society, of which I had been a member for many years.  John did have a variety of other literary interests, and it was always interesting to hear what sort of behaviour prevailed at the gatherings of Wodehousians. I just never could work up enthusiasm for throwing buns at policemen.

John was a remarkably kind host. In 1997 I returned to Philadelphia for the G&S Festival and John put me up for the week. The location of his home made it easy to get to and fro with the help of the train system, which must have been part of its attraction to him. While I spent a good deal of time with my host, I was also occupied with holding the attention of another Savoyard with whom the possibility of a nuptial match was appealing. In the course of the week, she and I did find time to break up once again, and I just wish I had made more time for John’s company.  He did not find her company all that appealing, partly because of her readiness to be relatively critical of whatever performance we had just seen.    

John brought enthusiasm to whatever he attended, and I enjoyed Ruddigore and Iolanthe as done by the Savoy Company. At the latter I can only hope that John’s and my renditions of ‘When Britain really ruled the waves’ were not loud enough to disturb other audience members.   

John’s hospitality was perhaps even easier to appreciate when I went to Oxford for my Gaudy at Magdalen in the spring of 2000. By that point John was living in London and he put me up for the days I spent there before heading off to Liverpool and Oxford. In addition to once again living in a location easy of access by public transportation, he also arranged for me to go with him to H.M.S. Pinafore at the Savoy. That was the apex of my Gilbert and Sullivan consumption, and my enjoyment was only dampened by John’s not being able to attend because of the press of business. I had the pleasure of sitting next to one of John’s colleagues in the railway business, who shared my enthusiasm for what was going on on stage. It was perhaps characteristic of John that, even though I wrote him a cheque for the cost of the ticket, he never deposited it.   

 John always displayed an interest in my almae maters, and I was glad to be able to pass along some items of Princetonian or Oxonian interest as some response to all that he sent my direction.  With regard to Princeton, he appreciated any news in the Alumni Weekly about Henry K. Posner III in connection with railways foreign and domestic. In addition, in those days Oxford was publishing a magazine entitled ‘Oxford Today’, which they only made available to alumni.    As a result, I could give John plenty of reading material from the banks of the Isis, although I was selfish enough to ask for them back. When the university stopped publishing the periodical, I was disappointed not to have anything of the sort to pass along to John.   

John’s generosity did not always serve him well from the financial point of view, and he did have some difficult decisions to make. I put him in touch with one of my friends in the financial world who could offer John some helpful advice. On the other hand, John did not require the nocturnal visits of any spirits to learn that mankind was his business, that charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all his business.   

Holmes asks in ‘Charles Augustus Milverton’, ‘You would not call me a marrying man, Watson?’  With all John’s interests and friends, I might have been inclined to give him a similar answer, but it was with some pleasant surprise that I learned of his forthcoming nuptials. I knew of Evelyn Herzog as a Sherlockian and wondered what sort of couple they would make. It was a privilege to attend the Sherlockian wedding (which provided the only occasion for me to meet some Holmesians with whom I had only corresponded). While I did not see either of them in the years afterwards, I could only attribute to John the sentiments of the song ‘A Married Man’ from Baker Street.  

It was saddening to hear of the medical issues that prevented John from keeping up his whirl of travel and correspondence. There would be no more Bloomsday cards or pieces of news from Baltimore or New York. His fading away has cut a wide swathe of sorrow in the many circles where he had friends.   

I am sure that I am not the only one of his memorialists to hail him as one of the best men whom we have ever known.   

Marcus Geisser, BSI (“Rosenlaui”)

“It is always a joy to meet an American”

The year was 1994 and the Sherlock Holmes Society of London invited Holmesians to the Back to Baker Street festival to celebrate the centenary of Sherlock Holmes’ return to London. Globetrotters amongst Sherlockians descended into London. And globetrotters meet, quite naturally, I guess. It was at this amazing festival when I shook hands with John Baesch for the first time, a fellow Sherlockian and – as I found out soon – fellow globetrotter. Thankfully, we shook hands countless times over the past thirty years, on both sides of the Atlantic. I wouldn’t want to miss one handshake with John. 

“It is always a joy to meet an American” says Holmes when he meets Mr. Moulton in The Noble Bachelor. Well, over the past thirty years, it has always been a joy to meet John, first as a “fellow bachelor” and, in later years, with his wonderful wife, Evy. 

John and I shared many passions, Sherlockian, naturally, but others, like those things that move on wheels. How can I forget our epic train 30 hour or so train adventure from Washington DC to Minneapolis in The Capitol Limited and (for a bit) The Empire Builder in the summer of 2013, with a brief stopover in Chicago that we enjoyed in one of his favorite German inns. The conference in Minneapolis organized by The Norwegian Explorers that we attended was – if I remember correctly - about “With Sherlock Holmes Through Time and Space” – how appropriate to slowly approach this conference in a slow-moving train with a fellow Sherlockian, a globe trotter and – a true friend. 

Over the years, John and I met many times on both sides of the Atlantic. He attended The Reichenbach Irregulars of Switzerland Millennium Conference in Meiringen. In the early 2000s, in between missions with the International Committee of the Red Cross, between the Congo and Burma, I visited him when he lived in London trying to make sense out of the British railway system – if he couldn’t, who could? Other encounters in Switzerland followed. And many in the US, in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis. And, of course, for a couple of years, we met for the monthly luncheon with fellow BSI at the Army and Navy Club in Washington DC. John and Evy also made the effort to cross the Atlantic on the Queen Mary II to attend my wedding near Winchester, UK, where my wife Helen Dorey and I got married. I am sure that I have forgotten some locations. 

What sticks out as I reflect about these 30 years of friendships, is what happens “in between” those handshakes when friends meet. John and I became friends when people still read newspapers. He obviously consumed many more than I have ever done. I wish I had kept all those newspaper clippings that he forwarded to my exotic work destinations around the globe where my work with the International Committee of Red Cross used to take me. Whether it was about something related to my humanitarian work, the context I happened to work in, Switzerland, Sherlock Holmes (of course) - had I put them into a scrapbook, it would have made a fine collection, easily comparable with Holmes’ collection of M’s. 

This regular dispatch of newspaper clippings showed not only want an interesting man John was, but in the countless topics, issues and concerns he was interested in. Naturally, it was John who thought that someone who works in exotic, sometimes hostile environments, with little means to relax, should read The New York Review of Books, to stay in touch what happens around the globe. That advice I have followed for the past twenty years or so and I don’t regret it. 

Let me finish. 

Shortly after I moved to Washington DC in 2011 to live there for a few years, one of my first weekends I spent was with Evy and John (and the cats) in Baltimore. We spent hours at a train enthusiasts’ memorabilia event (where else?). John spotted the things that I should buy, such as a wonderful set of 1950s cocktail glasses used on the trains that run between Washington DC and Boston. Each time I enjoy a gin & tonic in one those glasses (as I do right now, writing these few lines) I think of John. He had the eye what friends not only needed but would cherish for the years to come. 

So, yes, I raise my glass to John – because, elementary, Holmes, was right that it is always a joy to meet an American and (I paraphrase) a gentleman. I believe that you all agree that John was a true gentle man. 

Marina Stajic, BSI (“Curare”)

“But especially the people, that’s Sherlock Holmes to me” a wise Sherlockian paraphrased Frank Sinatra. He might as well have paraphrased or quoted John Baesch. John’s love for people in the Sherlockian universe (and outside of it) was reciprocated by all. He was one of those rare people whose character was never assassinated by those who knew him.

As it often happens with good friends, I don’t remember when I first met John but it seemed as we have been friends all my Sherlockian life. Strangely, most of our quality time was spent in England. John lived and worked in London for several years and I was able to attend many meetings of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, thanks to the reasonably priced plane fares prior to 9/11/2001. 

As Americans abroad, we naturally gravitated towards each other. On one such occasion, we were enjoying a delicious ox tail dish at Simpson’s in the Strand. Suddenly, John started musing about the fact that other parts of oxen are never seen on the menus. He said, with a serious look on his face: “I often wonder where all those oxen without tails are running around?” Ever since I have not been able to eat ox tails without thinking of John and the poor, tailless oxen. 

Another example of John’s pawky sense of humor was connected to baseball. A native Baltimorean, John was a lifelong fan of the Baltimore Orioles. I, a devoted fan of the New York Yankees. I once told John that, despite my love for the Yankees, I always dreaded that someone would give me a life size cutout of Derek Jeter. Sure enough, my gift from John arrived shortly after that.

My favorite memories of John are connected to Evelyn Herzog. During one of our meetings in England, John and I were closing out the evening at the bar (John was not an alcohol drinker, despite being a great Sherlockian in every other respect). His stay in England was nearing an end and he was wondering whether he should extend it or return home. Many of us thought that Evelyn and he would be an ideal couple. 

So, I blurted: “If you’re asking me, you should return and marry Evelyn.” I have rarely seen a man blush like he did. I immediately apologized, but John told me that he had been thinking about that for a long time. His natural shyness and fear of rejection prevented him from approaching Evy. Well, he overcame both and, a few years of courting culminated in a beautiful 20 year-long marriage.  John considered me a catalyst. 

A devout Catholic (he knew most churches along the East coast that still had Latin masses – his favorite), he honored me by asking me to be his groom’s woman at their otherwise traditional Catholic wedding.

The often-used canonical reference cannot be avoided when talking about John – he was one of the best and wisest man whom I have ever known.

John's official Terrace from the BSJ, by Burt Wolder

John Baesch, an inveterate traveler who delighted in the people he met as much as he enjoyed playing the Grand Game, died in Baltimore on November 14, 2023, at the age of 78.

John read his first Sherlock Holmes story, “The Speckled Band,” in his freshman year at a Jesuit high school in Baltimore. He attended Loyola College on a scholarship, worked as a copy boy at The Baltimore Sun, and graduated as a classics major. He began training for a career while at Loyola by enrolling in the ROTC. After graduation, John was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve. Before being called to active duty in 1967, he taught English at a high school near Baltimore’s downtown and inner harbor. Assigned to the Army Transportation Corps, John served in Virginia, North Carolina, Germany, The Netherlands, and Vietnam, where he arranged transportation for troops returning to America. He was discharged in 1971 with the rank of captain; his decorations included the Bronze Star.

Back in the states, John enrolled in the training program at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, where he advanced to positions in operations and casualty prevention until 1976, when he left to join Amtrak in Philadelphia. Twenty-three years later, he retired from Amtrak to join Parsons Brinckerhoff, an engineering firm, where his responsibility for major rail and transportation projects brought him to London for two years.

John’s intellect, his wide-ranging interests, and his enthusiasm for people, travel, and books connected him to many organizations. He delighted in groups devoted to Napoleon, P.G. Wodehouse, G. K. Chesterton, Gilbert & Sullivan, and Rudyard Kipling. Fascinated by the history of transportation, he was a member of historical societies devoted to railways, steamships, and to the study of the Titanic. 

His love of Baker Street made him an active member of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London and many other groups, including the Speckled Band of Boston, Cox and Co., the Cornish Horrors, the Men on the Tor, the Three Garridebs, the Priory Scholars, the Montague Street Lodgers, the Clients of Sherlock Holmes, the Sons of the Copper Beeches, Mycroft’s League, the Six Napoleons, Watson’s Tin Box, the Sherlockians of Baltimore, and the Red Circle. John was invested in the Baker Street Irregulars as the “State and Merton County Railroad” in 1998, and as “Cardinal Tosca” in the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes in 2008.

John relished following the clues and filling in the gaps in the world of Sherlock Holmes as much as he enjoyed travel. For almost twenty years, he contributed to Sherlockian scholarship through papers in the Baker Street Journal, the Sherlock Holmes Journal, and the Serpentine Muse, and through his presentations to local groups. His expertise in transportation led him to write about sea voyages in the canon, Holmes’s travels by rail and in the Underground, and much more.

John was a thoughtful and generous friend, and an enthusiastic correspondent. He was a devoted husband to fellow Sherlockian Evelyn Herzog; they wed in 2003.

John cherished the cards and letters he regularly received from his friends around the world and loved recalling their first meetings. “At the end of the day, it’s the people,” he said, during an interview. “I wish the world was a smaller place. I’d love to meet them some more.”

John's obituary from The Baltimore Sun can be found here.

John's funeral mass will be held on Saturday, March 2nd at 11a.m. at his boyhood parish, St. Ursula Catholic Church in the Parkville neighborhood of Baltimore, with a gathering in the parish Spiritual Center afterward.