Elmer B. Kurrle, a World War II veteran and grocer whose market was a popular Kingsville destination for decades, died July 14 from pneumonia at Franklin Square Medical Center. He was 90.
“I’ve been going to the Kingsville Market with my mother since I was a little kid,” said Bruce O. King of Kingsville. “The place was an institution.”
“Elmer was customer-oriented and soft-spoken. If he promised to do something and shook your hand, it was a verbal commitment. His word was as good as gold,” said Mr. King, who worked in the advertising department of The Aegis for 31 years until retiring in 2008. “You didn’t need attorneys or contracts when dealing with Elmer. He was just an honest businessman, and everyone knew it.”
Elmer Bickel Kurrle was born and raised in Baltimore. He was the son of William Kurrle, a butcher with Kurrle’s Packing Co., and his wife, Anna Kurrle, a homemaker.
He was a graduate of the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. During World War II, he served as an officer aboard PT boats in the Pacific Theater.
After the war, he joined the family’s meat packing firm as a butcher, then stayed on after the business was purchased by Maryland Beef Co.
Mr. Kurrle married the former Mary Rose Patricia “Pat” Wooden in 1947. In 1954, the couple moved from Baltimore to Kingsville.
In 1961 he and a business partner, Les Maynard, who owned Les’ Market in Kingsville, opened Kingsville Market on Belair Road, which also included a delicatessen and a liquor store. A month after the opening, Mr. Maynard died of a cerebral hemorrhage.
“He knew groceries and I knew meats,” Mr. Kurrle told The Baltimore Sun in 2013. “We made a nice team, but unfortunately the man upstairs didn’t see it that way.”
Gilbert L. “Gil” Thompson of Kingsville worked at the store part-time from 1961 to 2013. He and Mr. Kurrle “grew up together, went to the same school, and our friendship goes back 75 years.”
“We were like brothers,” said Mr. Thompson, who was chief electrical inspector for Baltimore County but worked at the store on weekends. “I helped him build the store and he taught me how to be a meat cutter. Elmer was dependable, honest, a straight-shooter and an old-school guy.”
Patrons and employees said the Kingsville Market was more than just another grocery store.
“The store became a community center, and that’s where the news came from. Everybody knew one another’s name, it was like ‘Cheers,’ except we didn’t have a bar,” Mr. Thompson said.
“It was known for its meats, which were of good quality and fresh,” said Mr. King, who worked in the the deli and meat department from 2009 to 2011. “When he cut meat, he was something of an artist.”
“Customers were always coming in for what we called ‘grilling steaks’ — cut an inch or an inch-and-one-eighth inches thick,” Mr. Thompson said. “They also came for Elmer’s turkeys, crowned pork roasts and corned ham, which was brined like a corned beef. The bone was removed and it was then rolled. It’s a Southern thing.”
The market was very much a family affair, with Mr. Kurrle’s wife, two sons and two daughters working there.
A daughter, Karen McAllister of Jarrettsville, worked there 28 years. She was a cashier and also worked in the meat and produce departments.
“Anything they needed. I was his third boy,” she said with a laugh. “He always worked so hard when we were growing up. It seemed he worked night and day. He was a very good guy — even-tempered, fair and very generous.”
Ms. McAllister said her father never turned away anyone who needed groceries.
“If someone came in with a child who was needy he’d say, ‘That child needs something to eat,’ and he’d sign the ticket,” she said. “He knew there were people who came in that would never pay, but he felt he had to keep them going. He had a big heart, an incredibly big heart.”
“Customers would bring their cutlery from home and he’d sharpen them at no charge,” Mr. King said. “He’d wrap them in paper and put a Band-Aid on top to remind them they were now ‘butcher-sharp.’”
Mr. Kurrle’s generosity extended to the community. He supported activities such as the annual Christmas tree lighting, Fourth of July parade, food pantries and food banks. He also aided the Kingsville Volunteer Fire Co. and several other area fire departments, as well as animal shelters, local churches, Little League baseball, and Boys and Girl Scout troops.
“I remember one July Fourth parade when he made sandwiches, fruit and a drink for every band member,” Mr. King recalled. “He wanted them all to have a good lunch.”
“I’ve lived in the community since 1954 and I will be here until the day I die,” Mr. Kurrle told The Sun. “I think I do what’s right. If you live in the community, you support the community.”
“He didn’t want the spotlight or any recognition,” Ms. McAllister said. “He was just modest and generous.”
When he retired in 2013, Mr. Kurrle and his family retained ownership of the building and land. They leased to Michael Tull of Baldwin, who reopened the business as Red’s Wine and Spirits.
Mr. Kurrle enjoyed boating and fishing on the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. He also earned his pilot’s license and enjoyed flying over Kingsville, taking aerial photographs.
His wife of 61 years died in 2008.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Aug. 25 at Salem United Methodist Church, 7901 Bradshaw Road, Upper Falls.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Kurrle is survived by sons Brian Kurrle of Jarrettsville and Blaine Kurrle of Kingsville; another daughter, Diane Jewer of Pasadena; six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
NOTE: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect date for Mr. Kurrle’s memorial service. It has been corrected here. The Sun regrets the error.