Elkridge: Hanover community lost a good one in neighbor, friend and community activist Herman Prehn

Every community has its local heroes and Elkridge is no exception.

Herman Prehn, a long-time resident of Hanover, generous neighbor, loyal friend and community activist, died Jan. 27 at the age of 82.

He once considered the priesthood with the Pallottine Priests and Brothers and lived at the Mission House in Jessup. However, in 1949, while studying and preparing to take his vows, he met a young woman by the name of Margaret Mary "Marge" Heil, who would accompany her father to the Mission House on Sunday afternoons to bring donations from St. Lawrence Church, the Pallottine's affiliate parish. Thus began a very different life from the road Herman started upon in 1949. He felt a larger calling to be a husband and father, and Marge and Herm got married Feb. 17, 1953, shortly after his return from two years in Korea with theU.S. Army.

From a one-bedroom house on Maple Avenue, their family grew to include four sons (Bill, Chuck, Eddie and Jim) and one daughter (Theresa, or "Terry") right in the middle of all those boys.

Herman worked hard six and sometimes seven days a week to provide for his family. He held a variety of jobs to do so, including being a Good Humor man, a Mr. Softee driver and he also drove a truck for a local fuel and propane company. He mostly worked with his dad, a brick mason in the Washington area, where he spent his youth.

Herman eventually began his own company (Herman Prehn & Sons) as a general contractor, which he ran until his retirement. His eldest son, Bill, still carries on the legacy of his father's business under the name Bill Prehn Home Improvements. I would like to thank Terry for providing many details of Herman's heroic adventures in order for me to pay tribute to his life of service.

Herman loved his family, but he also found tremendous satisfaction in helping others, especially those who couldn't help themselves. It was to be his passion and calling for the rest of his life. Herman served as Pack Master for Cub Scout Troop 432 in Elkridge from 1964 through 1976. In 1964, he was one of the founding members of the Kiwanis Club in Elkridge, serving the organization as president, treasurer and secretary many times over throughout his membership, and, on behalf of his contributions to the Kiwanis, received the Hixon Award from his fellow club members in 1997. He was also an active member of the VFW, Rotary Club, and St. Augustine's Church.

Herman also sponsored several men through the local Alcoholics Anonymous program, and ran the meetings at the Patuxent Institution and at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center for many years.

"It was quite normal to have an extra guest at the family dinner table on Sunday. It was years later that we found out that these dinner guests were actually various people whom my dad sponsored through the AA program," Terry said.

She went on to explain that, when a neighbor's house burned down, Herman urged them to stay with his family until their temporary housing unit was brought out to their property. He wouldn't take no for an answer and the family accepted his gracious offer.

Not only did Herman give them shelter, he also physically helped rebuild their home and did everything he could to help rebuild their lives, as well. And, when Herman's parents grew older and unable to manage their day-to-day lives, he brought them out to Maple Avenue and they lived in the one-bedroom house right next door where he and Marge were able to provide them with both independence and a watchful eye.

Perhaps Herman's greatest claim to local fame was as one of the founding members of the Elkridge Food Pantry, along with Fred Johnson and Mike Graff, in 1986. Herman spent far too many hours to count at the pantry, making sure the shelves would be full when area neighbors came by to pick up a few groceries to get them through hard times. . To this day, and to their credit, the Elkridge Food Pantry continues to assist the less fortunate in Elkridge and Hanover.

His daughter also shared the fact that Herman occasionally met folks who were just down on their luck and unemployed. He took it upon himself to provide a job whenever he could so they could work and not only regain their financial independence, but their pride as well. Yes, Herman fed the hungry, but he also helped them feed themselves and their families. He provided transportation to those that had none, lent or gave money to those that needed it, provided companionship to the lonely, and always had a joke or funny story for someone that wasn't smiling, or anyone that would just listen. He had that big, "tough guy" exterior, but on the inside, his heart was larger than life and surely made of gold.

Herman and Marge have left their children a legacy of giving and a lifetime of great memories. Marge was his loving wife for 47 years. She passed away in 2000 after a five-year battle with breast cancer, but was always by his side giving and caring for anyone in need that crossed their paths. Their collective accomplishments will be forever etched into the local history that makes up Elkridge and Hanover.

If they gave out capes to local heroes, Herman and Marge would certainly both have deserved one, but way too humble to actually wear it.

The Elkridge Adult Athletic Association, a proud Elkridge community organization for more than 30 years, is accepting applications from area high school seniors for its 2012 Scholarship Awards. Applications will be accepted until April 22.

More information about the EAAA Scholarship and the application process can be found on the EAAA Facebook page, or by calling Jeff Lockard at 410-796-8088 or emailing him at jeff.w.lockard@gmail.com.

The University of Maryland Extension – Howard County Master Gardeners will be holding a series of one-hour vegetable gardening classes Saturday, Feb. 25 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the University of Maryland Extension office, 3300 North Ridge Road, Suite 240, Ellicott City 21043.

The following one-hour classes will be presented with breakout sessions to answer questions:

At 10 a.m., Kent Phillips will demonstrate how to start vegetable transplants under florescent lights; what fixtures and bulbs work best; when to start each particular type of plant; indoor care and how to transfer the plants into the garden.

At 11 a.m., Gloria Lambert will teach "Vegetable Gardening for Beginners," showing novice gardeners several tips to create a garden from scratch, best yard location, soil testing, the best vegetable choices for central Maryland, and garden care for the duration of the season.

At noon, Jerry Kissel will teach a class on "Integrated Pest Management" for the spring vegetable garden, describing the pests and diseases commonly found and how the technique can be used to minimize the effect of pests and diseases in an earth- and health-friendly environment.

If you are interested in attending any of these classes, call the University of Maryland Extension – Howard County office at 410-313-2707 to register.

If you graduated from high school in 1962, you were probably rockin' out to the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Chubby Checker, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and Roy Orbison. You might have been a fan of such TV shows as "The Virginian," "Mr. Ed," "My Three Sons" or Route 66. Ninety percent of all American households had a television, albeit in black and white, but you couldn't miss the news when John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth and Johnny Carson began a long career as host of "The Tonight Show."

So, plan now to bring all those great memories to the 50th reunion of the Howard High School Class of '62! Details on this reunion are still in the planning stages, but slated to take place this fall. If you are a member of the class of '62, know how to find long-lost classmates, or interested in helping out, call Judy Pool Merson at 410-796-2838 or email judymerson@yahoo.com.

Please keep in touch and let me know what you'd like to share in this space. I'd love to post your news and events, any special occasion, anniversaries, birthdays, births, graduations, wedding bells, etc. This is your space, Elkridge, so share your news. Thanks and have a stellar week!

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