Douglas Freeman Crist, president of Farm and Home Service Inc., a farming supply business affiliated with Southern States Cooperative, died of heart failure Saturday at Howard County General Hospital. The Ellicott City resident was 52.
A Howard County native with farm-family roots, Mr. Crist built his father's business into a thriving enterprise with stores in Ellicott City, Sykesville and Germantown.
Mr. Crist graduated from Glenelg High School in 1965 and from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute with a bachelor's degree in horticulture and agriculture in 1970. During his college years, Mr. Crist was stricken with Hodgkin's disease, which may have hastened his death, said his mother, Gertrude H. Crist of Glenelg.
As a young man, he worked with his father, the late Howard G. Crist Jr., a leading Howard County Republican. When his father died in 1993, he took over the business.
On a double date in 1986, he met Martha Anne Clark, also a Howard County native from a farming family. They married soon after, naming their homestead adjoining the Clark family farm Summer Solstice Farm, to mark the June day they met.
"He was a wonderful son-in-law and a successful entrepreneur. His biggest regret was that he didn't live to see his children grow up," said his father-in-law, Jim Clark, an Ellicott City farmer, former state senator and a prominent Democrat who once ran against Mr. Crist's father.
"When we met, people took bets on how our children would register," said Mrs. Crist. "I'm awfully glad we made the most of our little time."
Politics aside, the couple's similar backgrounds and shared love of the land made for a happy life on their 100-acre farm, on which they baled hay in the sun, rode sleighs in the snow and traveled horseback trails year-round.
Along with an interest in family history, Mr. Crist also enjoyed sailing on the Chesapeake Bay, his wife said.
He was a hard worker who was always doing something either on his farm or for his business, which sold items such as field spray, fertilizer, feed, seeds and baler's twine. He was known for his dry wit, frugality and independent nature, relatives said.
His philanthropy included donating an old Baltimore and Ohio Railway station, which stood on property his business acquired, to the city of Sykesville in the late 1980s, said a business partner, Calvin Day.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Nora Freeman Crist, and a son, Nathan Clark Crist, at home; and a brother, Howard G. Crist III of Atlanta, Idaho.
Services were held yesterday.