Don Riddle, founder of Homestead Gardens, found dead on boat

Don Riddle, who founded one of the largest independent garden centers in the country in rural Davidsonville and was known for his quiet contributions to civic causes, was found dead Thursday on a boat docked near the back of his home outside Annapolis.

Officials did not release a cause of death but said they were alerted by a call about 4:35 p.m. Thursday to a possible suicide or sick person on a boat in Lake Ogleton behind the 1200 block of Eden Lane.

Riddle was pronounced dead there by rescue workers, who turned the scene over to police, said Division Chief Michael E. Cox Jr. of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department.

"There is no indication of anything suspicious in nature surrounding the circumstances of death, preliminarily," said Justin Mulcahy, spokesman for Anne Arundel County police. He declined to say what the manner or cause of death was, saying that will be determined by the medical examiner's office.

Riddle, 63, founded Homestead Gardens in 1973 in Davidsonville, which has grown into an upscale garden center known for many things, including unusual plants and its llamas.

Riddle was instrumental in creating the partnership that for more than a decade has added colorful flowers annually to Annapolis's historic downtown. He told The Baltimore Sun in 2009 that he didn't make money maintaining the 300-plus planters and hanging baskets but wanted to give back to the area that gave him his start in business.

Stephen Samaras, who owns Zachary's Exquisite Jewelry on Main Street in Annapolis, and who worked with Riddle to create the downtown Annapolis flower program in 1998, said Riddle "never turned anyone down" when approached for a donation to a local fundraiser.

"He was the most gracious business person I have ever run into," he said.

In the early 1990s, he was among the area businessmen who donated thousands of dollars in equipment to the city's Police Department, recalled former Chief Joseph Johnson. Riddle and others supplied cameras, computers, desks and more, all items outside the city's budget, and all things, Johnson said, "I don't know what we would have done without."

Riddle's family could not be reached Friday.

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