Dr. Edward Carl Kuhl Jr., a former director of personnel at Harford Community College and an expert modeler, died of prostate cancer Wednesday at his home in Hickory. He was 73.
Dr. Kuhl was born in Baltimore and raised in a rowhouse at Monroe and Wilhelm streets, where his father operated a shoe repair business in the first-floor front room. In his retirement, Dr. Kuhl constructed a miniature replica of the Southwest Baltimore rowhouse - a hobby that inspired him to chronicle the history of his family and of the city's rowhomes.
"One famous person whose shoes came to the shop was H.L. Mencken. Mr. Mencken's shoes were brought by his brother to be repaired by Dad," Dr. Kuhl wrote in Shoemaker's Son, an unpublished family memoir about his boyhood years in Pigtown. "The Mencken home was just a short walk from our house, and there was one shoe repair shop closer to the Menckens. I guess they liked Dad's work."
Dr. Kuhl was a graduate of Fourteen Holy Martyrs School and of Mount St. Joseph High School in Irvington in 1949.
"The parish was a dominant force in the community," he wrote in his memoir, "and since most of my childhood friends were Catholic, I thought the whole world was divided between Catholics and the 'publics' - that is, children who, like me, attended Catholic schools, or children who attended public schools."
Dr. Kuhl's father, who had been forced to drop out of school to take over the shoe repair business after the death of his father, refused to teach his son the trade, hoping instead that he would pursue a career in medicine.
"Even though he was an excellent craftsman, he hated the work and felt it was dirty," Dr. Kuhl wrote.
After earning a bachelor's degree in zoology in 1954 from the University of Maryland, he served as an electronics technician at an Air Force base in Newfoundland for two years.
Dr. Kuhl earned a master's degree in guidance from Columbia University in 1962, and his doctorate in student personnel administration in 1975 from the University of Maryland.
He taught general science at Clifton Park Junior High School for two years until becoming a guidance counselor at Patterson High School in 1959.
"He was an excellent teacher because of the things he brought to the classroom," said longtime educator and friend Lloyd C. Shue. "He had microscopes, models, drawings and other materials that helped his students."
In 1964, Dr. Kuhl joined the faculty of Harford Community College as dean of students. He was promoted to director of personnel, a position he held until retiring in 1986.
"He was extremely well-liked, and he had the ability to defuse situations and find common ground when dealing with disputes. And in his job, he was the one who got the problems," said Joan L. Preston, who succeeded him as director of personnel.
Dr. Kuhl built model airplanes as a child, and as an adult was an expert woodcarver and ship modeler. After his prostate cancer was diagnosed in 1996, and while his wife was waiting for a liver transplant, he decided to build a scale replica of the house where he spent the first 23 years of his life.
"He built the house during what he termed his 'worry period,'" said a daughter, Angela L. Kuhl of Parkville.
Dr. Kuhl began gathering vintage pictures of the house and its furnished rooms from family photo albums. He studied and compiled a history of rowhouses in a laboratory notebook, where he also recorded, in pencil, his meticulous plans for the model.
He worked steadily for two years on his back porch, where he spent hours patiently fashioning by hand hundreds of detailed components. They ranged from tiny red bricks to 1920s-era kitchen equipment, furniture, wallpaper, lamps and rugs.
He faithfully reproduced his father's shoe shop, with its machinery and the hissing gas lamp that stood in front of the house.
From the model building came his memoir. He began writing not only of the physical structure that had been a part of the cityscape since the 1860s, but also of its occupants, who lived there while struggling through the Great Depression.
"I remember it as my home, a safe haven. I tell these things now so that it is clear that the dollhouse soon became more than a model built on a scale one inch to the foot," he wrote. "It became a time machine. It brought back memories that I did not know were still lodged somewhere in my head."
Dr. Kuhl liked raising flowers and herbs and collecting clocks and pocket watches manufactured by the Hamilton Clock Co.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Margaret Roman Catholic Church, 141 Hickory Ave., Bel Air.
Dr. Kuhl is survived by his wife of 50 years, the former Dorothy M. Lowe; three other daughters, Diane Kuhl Mitchell of Norrisville, Jane F. Kuhl of Guilford and Joanne L. Green of Churchville; a sister, Joan Phillips of Annapolis; and two grandchildren.