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Mount Airy remembers long serving figure

Mount Airy recently lost one of its most devoted public servants with the death of former Town Council President Delaine Hobbs Jr. Hobbs, who died on Thursday, May 12, was 81.

Hobbs served on the Mount Airy Town Council for 36 consecutive years, from 1966 until 2002, and was council president from 1988 until 2002. He served on multiple boards — including the Carroll Hospital board, from its inception; and the Carroll Community College board of trustees, of which he was a member for 22 years — and was president of the Mount Air Volunteer Fire Company for 17 years.

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"In a lot of ways, you could say he was Mount Airy, and in a lot of ways Mount Airy was a huge part of him," former Mount Airy Mayor Frank Johnson Jr., said of Hobbs in an interview Monday. If you add up all the years Hobbs spent serving Mount Airy in one capacity or another, Johnson said, "you are at over 50 years of service: A couple of years would be enough to show that somebody has community involvement."

Years of service comes with a lot of value added for the community too, according to current Town Council President Peter Helt.

"I can remember going to council meetings and people would say, 'Why don't we do this,' and he would say, 'Well I remember in 1976 we tried that and here's the problem we had,' " Helt said. "There's really a great benefit to all that wisdom and knowledge that he had."

Helt recalled the time that a water and sewer issue cropped up in town and he went to ask Hobbs for advice.

"He said, you need to go back and look at these records, and it was records from the 1980s," Helt said. "Fortunately, our Town Hall staff is really good and they managed to dig out these records and he was right. ... None of us would have even thought to go double-check this before we made a decision."

Water and sewer issues were long Hobbs' area of responsibility on the Town Council, according to Johnson, which was only fitting, as the town owed its very infrastructure to Hobbs.

"If it wasn't for Delaine Hobbs, we may not have had a sewer system until the 1990s, because he was the one that pulled that together in the early '70s when a lot of people were not in favor of it," Johnson said. "He walked that through; he made that a major priority."

Planning for the future and anticipating growth was one of Hobbs' key strengths, according to Johnson, a trait that was made plain in 2006 when Johnson was elected mayor and wanted to establish a town administrator position.

"There was talk about how you would have to change the town charter, and that had never been approved and all that," Johnson said. "Well, looking at the minutes [of the Town Council meetings] to see what had happened, I found in one of the first months that Delaine Hobbs had been in office in 1966, in fact a town administrator had been approved and that he had been a part of that."

No town administrator had been hired in 1966, but the legal groundwork had been laid by Hobbs.

"That's somebody thinking 30, 35 years ahead of where they were in the town," Johnson said.

A leader

"If you had to sum Delaine Hobbs up to me in a word, it's leader, because he always was," said Doug Alexander, public information officer with the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company. "He wasn't necessarily worried about himself being the best or noticed, but he wanted all the projects that he was involved in to be the best."

Hobbs served as president of the fire company for 17 years — most of the '60s until at least 1976, as far as Alexander can remember — during which time he was still active and anything but desk bound.

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"He did it all. He'd load the fire trucks and drive the ambulance and everything else," Alexander said. "He was very active with the ambulance in particular — he was very good at providing first aid."

Hobbs was very good at mentoring younger firefighters as well, getting them engaged in all the necessary fundraising adjuncts — dances, dinners and carnivals — that make volunteer firefighting possible and helping them develop the skills they would need in the field, Alexander included.

"As I was coming up and getting my skills, it would just be him and I on the ambulance," Alexander said. "He was just a real good mentor and leader as far as getting us on the right track for doing things, particularly for me. If I would start to get off track a little bit, he would say, 'You might want to check this.' "

There was more to Hobbs than just public service, however, as Alexander discovered when he began playing music.

"As I came up through school I learned to play the trombone. And as I came to learn as I started playing, Delaine Hobbs had been the first trombone player for the University of Maryland marching band when he went to Maryland," Alexander said. "As a matter of fact, he had a full ride to the Peabody Conservatory."

A musician, a town councilman and a firefighter, Hobbs was a photographer by trade.

"He just took phenomenal pictures. He just knew how to make the girls in particular look the very best," Alexander said. "I can't even begin to tell you how many weddings he photographed, how many baby pictures he took, how many family pictures he took in his studio. The number of people's lives that he touched in some way, shape or form is immeasurable."

In 2013, Mount Airy recognized Hobbs' contributions with a portrait and plaque that will be permanently displayed in the Town Hall, ensuring that Hobbs will continue to be present, in one way or another, in the town that he served.

"He was just a real fine guy — he really was," Alexander said. "Somebody like that kind of really sticks with you."

Hobbs is survived by his wife, Mary Ann Hobbs; two children, Scott Delaine Hobbs and his wife, Evelyn, and Heather Ann Hobbs Michael and her husband, Patrick; and three grandchildren, Cameron Michael, Logan Michael and Megan Hobbs. Funeral services were to be held 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 17, at New Market United Methodist Church, 5501 Old New Market Road, New Market.

410-857-3317

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