Former Calvert County circuit court judge and legislator Thomas Rymer, 91, died Friday after a short illness.

Rymer was a down-to-earth man who loved Calvert County deeply, said Ernie Bell, a former delegate and a lawyer in Leonardtown. Rymer, along with former senator Bernie Fowler, took Bell under their wings when he was a newly-elected delegate.

“He knew everyone in Calvert County,” Bell said.

Bell’s district, which was newly formed at the time of his election in 1980, covered Leonardtown to Prince Frederick. Some were skeptical that Bell, a Leonardtown resident, could represent Prince Frederick residents, so Rymer showed Bell around and introduced him to people.

“Tom Rymer, he just made me feel so much at home, particularly being the new guy on the block,” Bell said. “… Tom was a well-respected legislator. He was the kind of guy you described as rock solid. Tom gave you his word and his word was his bond.”

Fowler said Rymer was “one of the brightest minds that I had the good fortune to associate with.”

Fowler and Rymer got into politics the same year, Fowler as a Calvert County commissioner and Rymer in the House of Delegates.

“We sort of bonded together because our values were similar in terms of what we wanted Calvert County to be like,” Fowler said.

When Rymer and Fowler took office, Fowler said Calvert County didn’t have real road specifications or building specifications and had limited rules and regulations. Calvert was one of the poorest counties in the state and very rural. Rymer was part of a precursor to what is now the Calvert County Comprehensive Plan: The Pleasant Peninsula Plan. Rymer was the one who named the plan, Fowler said.

“He was just a good person to work with and he was a real contributor in terms of creativity for the county,” Fowler said.

Rymer also was instrumental in turning around Calvert County Public Schools, said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s). In the 1960s, Calvert County has a reputation for not having good public schools. He was part of increasing the funding to schools.

“The school system today is part of his legacy,” Miller said.

Miller met Rymer in the 1960s when he was a young lawyer and Rymer was the state’s attorney for Calvert County. Miller said they “bonded together immediately.”

“He had a great, even demeanor and that showed up later on when he became a judge. He was very calm, very mild, very thoughtful in his deliberations. He was not flamboyant at all. He was very reasoned in his decisions,” Miller said.

Rymer was also a U.S. Navy veteran, worked as an engineer and held various government positions. He served 17 years in the House of Delegates, where he served as majority whip, chairman of the Joint Ethics Committee and the Tri-County Council of Southern Maryland. In 1987, he was appointed to the Calvert County Circuit Court until he retired in 1995.

He is survived by his wife, Grace Mead Rymer; children, Gary C. Rymer, Thomas A. Rymer Jr. and Ronald C. Rymer; stepchildren, Grace Mary Brady, Robert Manual Garrett, John Michael Garrett, Nell-Marie Chaney and William Francis Garrett, all of Calvert County, and Allan Garrett of Baltimore; 15 grandchildren and stepchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren. His son Thomas J. Garrett died a year ago. Rymer is also survived by his brother, John Rymer of Fenwick Island, Del., his obituary states.

“In him I lost a great friend and Calvert County lost a real hero,” Fowler said.

Twitter: @CalRecSARAH