Lewis E. Pearce Sr., a retired Baltimore County herb farmer who ascribed his longevity to his wife's cooking - and especially her homemade fudge - died Saturday of congestive heart failure at his Glen Arm home. He was 107.
Mr. Pearce was born at home in Glen Arm, and then moved to a 12-acre farm that his parents had purchased in 1906, where he would live and work for the rest of his life.
"He was born Jan. 12, 1900, and often joked that if only his mother had gone into labor 12 days earlier, he could say that he had lived in three centuries," said Elaine Pearce, a daughter-in-law.
He received his early education in a two-room Glen Arm schoolhouse and didn't attend high school.
He married Laura Dunty in 1920.
"She was 15 and worked at the Hartley Mill on Harford Road. It was an old-fashioned mill with a big water wheel. He was 21," said a son, Lawrence G. Pearce, who lives, like his two brothers, on the family farm.
Mr. Pearce was working as a plasterer in Baltimore and Glen Arm, when the Depression hit, and as it deepened, and work vanished, he returned to the family farm.
In 1932, he began building a stone house because there "wasn't anything else for him to do," grandson Lewis Pearce III told The Sun in a 2000 interview. He would live in the house for the next 75 years.
Mr. Pearce began planting watercress, parsley, mint and other herbs in the early 1930s; in 1952, he expanded the farm, adding fresh vegetables to the herbs he supplied to Baltimore restaurants and hotel kitchens.
"Some of the customers he supplied for years and years were Haussner's, Miller Brothers, the Maryland Club, Baltimore Country Club, the Belvedere Hotel and Lord Baltimore Hotel," said his son, who also worked in the family business with his two brothers.
"He'd start work at 7 a.m. or so and keep on going until it was dark," his son said. "He didn't retire until he was well into his 90s. He slowed down a little but kept on going. He liked being active."
Mr. Pearce kept active by chopping wood and puttering around his home. He drove his car until he was 90, then let his license expire. When he was 95, he climbed his roof to check on his chimney.
He claimed to have never suffered from a headache and didn't get glasses until he was in his 80s.
"He had them but seldom, if ever, wore them. He just carried them around," his son said.
Mr. Pearce was an avid hunter and fisherman, and continued fishing for white perch at Loch Raven Reservoir as recently as last year.
"He loved fishing and had fished all his life. He even got a new fishing license this year," his son said.
Mr. Pearce joined the Bethany Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in 1935 and remained an active member all of his life.
His wife died at age 96 in 2001. For the last nine years of her life, Mr. Pearce cared for her while she was bedridden with Alzheimer's disease.
"We helped out, but he did all of the cooking and cleaning because he wouldn't let her to go to a nursing home," his son said.
Mr. Pearce attained centenarian status by not smoking or drinking. He liked snacking on Hershey's chocolate, and vanilla and chocolate ice cream. He relished fresh vegetables and his wife's homemade fudge.
"I guess you could say he lived a very clean life. He didn't drink or smoke. He had smoked cheap cigars, and one day during World War II, he said they tasted awful and threw them out of the window, and never smoked again," his son said.
"He didn't avoid anything and had a great appetite. To be honest, whatever the doctors tell you not to eat, he ate. After all, he was raised in an era when everything was cooked in lard," his son said. "He liked to go to the Golden Corral on Rossville Boulevard every Wednesday for dinner."
"He enjoyed life, people, nature and a good cup of coffee," his daughter-in-law said.
Celeste H. Breitenbach, a reporter for the Times-Herald, a Baltimore County weekly, interviewed Mr. Pearce on his 100th birthday.
"Here was a man who was used to hard work," Ms. Breitenbach said yesterday. "They don't make them like him any more."
Mr. Pearce was a member for more than 80 years of Waugh United Methodist Church, 11453 Long Green Pike, Glen Arm, where a memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. tomorrow.
Also surviving are two other sons, Lewis E. Pearce Jr. and Morris E. Pearce, both of Glen Arm; six grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and a great-great-granddaughter.