John Hergenroeder, 90, founder of Baltimore bakery


John Hergenroeder, founder of Woodlea Bakery in Baltimore and patriarch of a German-American family that has been baking cakes and confections in the city for more than a century, died of a heart attack Sunday in an apartment above his bakery. He was 90.

Mr. Hergenroeder and his wife, Dorothy Sporrer Hergenroeder, raised 12 children amid the sweet smells of baking bread in their home above their business at 4906 Belair Road in Northeast Baltimore.

The bakery is best known for its peach cake, made with fresh peaches cooked with their skins.

"My grandfather's whole entire life was taking care of the bakery, taking care of his family and taking care of the [Roman Catholic] church," said his grandson, Charlie Hergenroeder, 34, of Baltimore, who will run the family business with his father, Charles, 63, and aunt Dolores Pomles, 60, Mr. Hergenroeder's son and daughter, of Baltimore.

"He worked at the bakery seven days a week up until he was 70 years old. It never closed, except for Christmas Day," said another of Mr. Hergenroeder's daughters, Dorothy Hall of Baltimore.

Mr. Hergenroeder was the brother of Henry R. Hergenroeder, a City Council member from Northeast Baltimore in the 1960s. He also was the uncle of Henry Robert "Bobby" Hergenroeder Jr., a state delegate from Northeast Baltimore from 1967 to 1990.

Mr. Hergenroeder's father, also named John, immigrated to Baltimore from Germany at age 14 and started the Hergenroeder Bakery in Northeast Baltimore.

His son helped deliver baked goods by horse and carriage in the city's Bolton Hill neighborhood.

The younger John Hergenroeder did not attend high school, working as a baker full time at age 15. He met his wife, Dorothy Sporrer, when she was 16 and he was 22 and both worked at the Hergenroeder bakery. They married two years later.

In 1943, at age 34, the younger Mr. Hergenroeder sold his house on Bayonne Avenue in Northeast Baltimore to help raise the money to start Woodlea Bakery.

The business hit hard times early, shifting to black-market sugar and honey during the rationing of Word War II. Mr. Hergenroeder bought a peach orchard in West Virginia, then sold it because it was losing money.

As the bakery prospered, he made regular donations to St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church, Catholic missionaries in Africa and orphanages in the Baltimore area, family members said.

A funeral Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Anthony's 4414 Frankford Ave., Baltimore.

In addition to his wife, son and daughters, he is survived by sons Thomas and Francis, all of Baltimore; daughters Barbara Gizinski, Elizabeth Pepple and Anita Posterli, all of Baltimore, and Marie Hergenroeder of New York City; 26 grandchildren; and 23 great-grandchildren.

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