Albert W. Selby, a former Carroll County Orphans' Court judge, retired auto salesman and museum volunteer, died Wednesday at Continuum Care Nursing Home in Sykesville from complications of a fall in his Eldersburg home. He was 85.
When Mr. Selby was born at the former Baltimore County General Hospital, the road in front of his Eldersburg home, where he was raised, was dirt.
"He was a little boy when they built Liberty Road, and he'd be out there helping the workers who put shovels of dirt in his small wheelbarrow," said his wife of eight years, the former Joan Candy.
Mr. Selby attended Sykesville High School and joined the family construction business in 1936. During the 1940s, he owned and operated a Sunoco gas station on Liberty Heights Avenue.
He began selling autos at Beall Motor Co. in Stevenson, a Ford agency, in 1947. A decade later, he built an Atlantic-Richfield filling station on Liberty Road in Eldersburg and in 1966 expanded his business by establishing Albert W. Selby Used Cars.
"He was so well-liked. I'm always meeting people who said they bought their first car from him or a used car for one of their children," Mrs. Selby said. "He prided himself on being honest and trying to help kids get their first car. He'd find ways for people to finance cars, or he'd finance them himself."
On one occasion, Mr. Selby was on a hospital operating table and recognized the surgeon as a former customer. "He asked the surgeon, 'Before you operate, did you like the car? Was it OK?'" Mrs. Selby said.
"He also sold cars in a rather unique way," said Hoby Wolf, a retired motion picture executive and columnist for the Eldersburg Eagle, a Carroll County weekly newspaper.
"Prominent people who wanted to buy a Ford would call Albert up and tell them what they wanted. He had an arrangement with Beall Ford, and he'd go and pick up and deliver the car, and they never saw the inside of the dealership," Mr. Wolf said. "When the car needed service, he'd go and pick it up and then return it."
Mr. Selby closed his businesses and retired in the late 1980s.
Known as the "mayor of Eldersburg," Mr. Selby was a founder of the Eldersburg Improvement Association.
Mr. Selby long immersed himself in the history of Carroll County, and was an early volunteer and later a board member of the Carroll County Farm Museum and a founder of the Carroll County Wine Festival.
"He knew the rural history and families of Carroll County, and his knowledge was invaluable," said Dominic C. Dattilio, a retired state police trooper and former farm museum board chairman. "And whatever needed to be done, you could always count on Albert getting it done."
Described by Mr. Dattilio as a "red-hot Republican," Mr. Selby was a member of the county Republican Central Committee for four years and was a member of the county Board of Zoning Appeals from 1979 to 1985. He was elected to the first of three terms on the Orphans' Court in 1985, and lost in the 1998 Republican primary in his quest for a fourth.
"He was a Republican and I'm a Democrat, but I forgive him for that," Mrs. Selby said. "He believed firmly in the Republican Party since he was a kid. I tried to convert him, but it was impossible."
Mr. Selby read widely on history and politics and enjoyed biographical books.
"The last book he was reading was Bill Clinton's autobiography. He only had 50 pages to go when he died," Mrs. Selby said. "He was a man who could see both sides of everything."
His first wife, the former Jean Hoffman, died in 1995. They were married for 50 years.
He was a member of Wesley Freedom United Methodist Church, 961 Johnsville Road, Eldersburg, where services will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow.
Survivors also include two sons, Lester M. "Doc" Selby of Eldersburg and Stephen L. Selby of Westminster; four stepsons, William A. Candy of Summerville, S.C., Robert L. Candy of Cumberland, Richard L. Candy of Westminster and David E. Candy of Freeport, N.Y.; two stepdaughters, Kathleen A. May of Arnold and Susan E. Candy of Eldersburg; 12 grandchildren; and a great-grandson.