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Clarence C. Boyle Sr., car dealership owner

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Clarence Cromwell Boyle Sr., a Harford County automobile dealership owner who served in World War II, died of heart disease at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center on March 27. He was 85 and lived in Bel Air.

Born at home on his family's farm in the Level section of Harford County, he was the son of Howard Benjamin Boyle, a county roads supervisor, and Ethel Bowman, a homemaker.

Family members said he learned to fly an airplane before he had a driver's license. He practiced at Aldino Airport near his home.

"We courted in his plane," said his wife of 64 years, the former Irene Kahoe. "He had a two-seater Stearman and he did stunt flying all over Harford County. He was a year ahead of me in school."

Family members said he gave up stunt flying after he married and had a family.

Mr. Boyle was a 1944 graduate of Bel Air High School, where he was a standout catcher on the school's baseball team. He was scouted by the Brooklyn Dodgers and offered a contract in its farm system.

Family members said he rejected the offer and left high school a month before his official graduation ceremony. He enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the Corps of Engineers. He was immediately sent overseas.

While on guard duty at a prisoner camp in Germany, he was shot at and wounded in the leg.

After his 1946 discharge from military service, he returned to his home and took a job driving a delivery truck for Kroh's Cleaners in Bel Air. While delivering dry cleaning, he struck up a conversation with the owners of Lee Buick in Perryman.

A member of the Lee family who owned that dealership had recently died and there was an opening. Mr. Boyle accepted and became sales manager and later general manager.

In 1968, he purchased the franchise.

"He had tremendous empathy and understanding of people," said his grandson, Michael Boyle Jr. of Bel Air. "He also worked hard."

Mr. Boyle had earlier purchased a tract of land and in 1976 moved the renamed Boyle Buick to Abingdon, where it remains in family ownership. He expanded its line to include GMC products.

Mr. Boyle remained active in the business as its board chairman, a post he held at his death. He retained an office in Abingdon until 2010.

"He was a salesman in a quiet, persistent way," his grandson said. "And from an integrity perspective, you could take his word to the bank."

Friends said he was well known in Harford County business circles. He served on the Business Advisory Board for the old First National Bank of Maryland, the Harford Mutual Insurance Co.'s board of directors and the President's Dealer Advisory Board of General Motors Corp.

"He kept a core group of friends for more than 50 years. They mixed business with their friendships," his grandson said. "They were centered in Bel Air but traveled together. And they all seemed to drive Buicks."

A founding member of the Maryland Golf and Country Club, he was its fourth president.

"He had a way of getting to know people. And he was a good storyteller," said Gerard Kunkel, a friend for 60 years who lives in Bel Air. "You would be out with him and notice how people remembered him."

Mr. Boyle mixed well in civic and community groups. He was an American Legion lifetime member and belonged to the Lions Club, Aberdeen Rotary, where he had been president, the Maryland New Car Dealers Association and the Association of the United States Army.

In 2011, he and his wife were named Harford County Living Treasures.

He was an avid outdoorsman, and enjoyed hunting waterfowl and deer in Kent County. He did deep sea fishing in Ocean City and in Key West, Fla. He retained a love for baseball, the Orioles and Ravens. He often attended his grandchildren's games.

A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, 533 E. Jarrettsville Road, Hickory. He was also active at St. Margaret's Church in Bel Air.

In addition to his grandson and wife of 64 years, survivors include four sons, Clarence C. Boyle Jr. of Bel Air, Michael Boyle Sr. of Forest Hill, Christopher Boyle Sr. of Jarrettsville and Brooke Boyle Sr. of Forest Hill; two daughters, Linda Boyle Berry of Bel Air and Mary Sue Boyle Lynch of Churchville; 22 other grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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