Charles E. Hergenroeder Sr., the owner of his family's Belair Road bakery, where he had made breads and rolls since he was 16, died of a brain tumor Monday at his Parkville home. He was 69.
Mr. Hergenroeder was one of 12 children raised above the Woodlea Bakery, a Gardenville-area operation founded by his father on April 3, 1943.
Born in Hamilton, Mr. Hergenroeder graduated from Towson Catholic High School in 1957. By that time, he was already working for his father, John Hergenroeder. In the summer, he helped drive peaches, apples and cherries back to Baltimore from a 3,000-acre orchard his parents owned in Paw Paw, W. Va.
"Charles loved going out to West Virginia and get those apples," said a sister, Dolores Pomles, who worked alongside her brother. "The bakery was always No. 1 to him. He would go to people's weddings and funerals in his bakeshop clothes because he was on his way to work. He wouldn't linger at these occasions."
Mr. Hergenroeder worked 12-hour days - and on his day off would often drive out to buy supplies. In his early years at the bakery, he peeled apples for pies and used the skins and cores to make jelly filling for his doughnuts. He also grated carrots and coconuts for cakes and chopped onions for onion rolls.
Family members said that when a customer came into the store with a request for an item not normally available, Mr. Hergenroeder liked making small batches geared to specific tastes.
"He was the lead baker. He did everything," said his son, Charles E. Hergenroeder Jr., who now runs the bakery. "He set the plan for the day."
Although Mr. Hergenroeder worked behind a partition, he stood at a mixer and could see into the store. He often emerged to engage his customers in conversation.
"The line at the Woodlea Bakery's front door forms at 5:55 a.m.," said a 1992 Evening Sun article that described Mr. Hergenroeder's work. "Nearly an hour before dawn, regular customers wait patiently for their fix of homemade marshmallow doughnuts, smearcase cake and raisin buns."
"Charles loved to make bread and rolls. He knew how to time those doughs," his sister said. "He was also good on doughnuts - I don't know his secret, but he could fry them perfectly."
Mr. Hergenroeder wanted his bakery to retain a German-American flavor and also introduced seasonal European items, such as a Christmas hoska, a braided bread filled with candied fruit that he made and decorated.
Over the years, Mr. Hergenroeder's bakery became a community landmark and was mentioned in newspaper articles about Northeast Baltimore. One article said that Hamilton and Gardenville pastors told their Sunday congregations, "Don't leave early; Hergenroeder's won't run out."
Mr. Hergenroeder never retired. He worked until he collapsed near his ovens in March 2006. He underwent two surgeries and kept telling family members, "I've got to get back to work."
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at St. Isaac Jogues Roman Catholic Church, 9400 Old Harford Road.
In addition to his son and sister, survivors include his wife of 44 years, the former Etta "Pat" Guerrieri, who also worked at the bakery; a daughter, Donna L. Peters of Grosse Point, Mich.; two brothers, Thomas Hergenroeder and Francis Hergenroeder, both of Baltimore; five additional sisters, Barbara Gizinski of Forest Hill, Elizabeth Pepple of Ruxton, Dorothy Hall of Baltimore, Marie Hergenroeder of New York City and Anita Posterli of Lutherville; and eight grandchildren.