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Joseph L. Radebaugh Sr., florist, dies

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Joseph L. Radebaugh Sr., an owner of a family-owned florist and greenhouse business who served customers for more than 65 years, died of congestive heart failure July 3 at his Towson home. He was 88.

Mr. Radebaugh was born on a family farm at Stevenson Lane and Bellona Avenue. Before his graduation from Towson High School in 1940, he helped his father and brothers sell fruit and vegetables as well as the cut flowers they grew. An athlete, he played for Towson's basketball, soccer and baseball teams.

Shortly after his birth, his father moved to a tract on Burke Avenue, where the family business remains. Mr. Radebaugh lived the rest of life in a home adjacent to his greenhouses. He believed that in his business, "you have to live on the property."

He maintained the glass windows, boilers and watering systems and worked alongside his father and three brothers. They initially raised cut flowers for florists and grew annuals, perennials and vegetable plants for local gardeners.

"Towson sort of grew up around us. When my father started working here, it was just fields and a few houses," said his son, Joseph L. Radebaugh Jr. of Towson.

For many years, Mr. Radebaugh favored greenhouses made of glass and did not embrace plastic. Over the years, he and his brothers expanded the original shop and greenhouses on Burke Avenue and constructed another growing operation in Freeland in Northern Baltimore County when land ran out in Towson.

Among other duties, Mr. Radebaugh whitewashed the glass to block the sun and cool his greenhouses in the summer, scrubbing it off in the autumn to add heat for his poinsettias.

"Joe Senior dedicated his life to building our business," said his nephew, Steve Radebaugh of Glen Arm. "As you walk around the Towson property, everywhere you look are the greenhouses that he either built from scratch or maintained and rebuilt."

Mr. Radebaugh shoveled coal into the furnace that heated the greenhouses for the roses, carnations and snapdragons the family once raised. He also joined in bringing these cut flowers to the old wholesale florist district in the 800 block of Calvert St.

"He was the plant engineer and kept all those boilers working," said a longtime friend, Charles E. "Chub" Wagner of Towson. "He was hands-on. I was amazed at his capabilities. He was also a grower, but he built the buildings and kept them working."

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Mr. Radebaugh had a second career. He used a back scoop to dig and construct swimming pools. He initially worked with his father in Baltimore and Harford counties. "He was a perfectionist and hand troweled the concrete himself," said Mr. Wagner.

He kept a Briggs Stratton cement mixer and made all the walks and plant benches on the property.

Mr. Radebaugh was a familiar presence at the Towson operation, where returning customers often sought his advice — or just greeted him — as they made their purchases.

"Joe passed down his wonderful sense of service to his children," said a customer, Barbara "Bunny" Hathaway of Owings Mills. "He was polite and made sure that everything was grown beautifully. No matter what you bought, it was perfect. I enjoyed going there all the time."

Mr. Radebaugh met his future wife, Anna "Bobbie" Buschman, in Towson. They courted while ice skating at Loch Raven Reservoir.

"He and my mother worked together for 67 years raising flowers and children on Burke Avenue," said his daughter, Nancy Howat of Seattle. "He really enjoyed people and the relationships he had with them. Year after year, season after season, customers would come in and ask for him."

"Family and business were his life," said a son, Douglas Radebaugh of Freeland, who manages the greenhouse operation today.

Mr. Radebaugh loved ice hockey and often went to Loch Raven, ponds at Sheppard Pratt Hospital and ice rinks with his sons. He was also an avid hunter and sportsman and also went on family hunting trips.

A dog lover, he trained hunters — beagles, English setters and Labrador retrievers, including one named Abbey who stood by him in the greenhouse. He also played golf at Country Club of Maryland, where he had built a swimming pool.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Aug. 6 at Immaculate Conception Church, 200 Ware Ave., Towson.

In addition to his wife of 67 years, his daughter and two sons, survivors include another son, Edward "Ned" Radebaugh of Lutherville; a sister, Jeannette Hollenshade of Towson; two brothers, Carroll Radebaugh of Towson and John "Jack" Radebaugh of Freeland; 11 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren. A son, Curt Radebaugh, died in 1979.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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