Charles R. Diffenderffer, executive chef

Charles Ross Diffenderffer, an attorney who changed careers and became an executive chef, died April 24 at his home in the Mays Chapel section of Timonium. He was 49.

Family members said he died after a lengthy battle with addiction.


Born in Baltimore and raised in Timonium and Baldwin, he was the son of the late Donald Diffenderffer, who owned an exterminating business and was a political strategist, and the former Florence Wood, a homemaker.

Mr. Diffenderffer attended Pot Spring Elementary School and Ridgely Junior High School and was a 1982 graduate of Loch Raven High School, where he played Frank Butler in a production of "Annie Get Your Gun."


He earned a bachelor's degree at Washington and Lee University and was a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law.

Mr. Diffenderffer began practicing law in 1989 and joined the firm of Miles & Stockbridge. In 1996, he formed Brown & Diffenderffer, later Brown, Diffenderffer, Wagonheim & Kearney. The firm had offices in Towson and in Tide Point in Baltimore.

"At one time, he was one of the most complete lawyers I have ever known," said his former law partner, Michael A. Brown, who is now at Miles & Stockbridge. "He could argue cases, write briefs and get clients. He was good all around."

In 2005, Mr. Diffenderffer established his own practice, also at Tide Point and later in Towson.

His sister, Dawn Diffenderffer-Baker of Lutherville, said her brother "was a charmer. He was a born leader who could motivate people. He was the guy who read the school announcements over the public address system. He played the lead in the school musical. He could fill a room with his personality and his humor."

She said that she accompanied him to New Orleans to celebrate his 40th birthday. While there, he began watching the Food Network on a hotel TV set.

"He said to me, 'What is this? I've never seen it,' " she said. "In a few weeks, he told me he was addicted to the Food Network."

He later decided to leave law and earned a culinary diploma at the Baltimore International College in downtown Baltimore.


"He was the kind of person who was not afraid of change," his sister said. "He was always seeking something."

She said Mr. Diffenderffer was a self-taught cook who loved the socializing and teamwork in a kitchen.

In 2009, he became an executive chef with Genesis Health Care in the Mid-Atlantic region and held the post until last year.

A sports enthusiast, he had season tickets to Ravens games and followed the University of Maryland basketball team. He was also an Orioles fan. He traveled widely and visited local historical sites.

Mr. Diffenderffer was active in Phoenix Recovery Center.

A life celebration will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. May 25 at the Father O'Neill Hall, Knights of Columbus, 616 W. Seminary Ave. in Lutherville.


In addition to his sister, survivors include a son, William Diffenderffer of Wilmington, N.C.; a daughter, Grace Diffenderffer of Baltimore; his mother, Florence Wood Dudding of Mays Chapel; and another sister, Hannah Diffenderffer of Charleston, S.C. His marriage to the former Michele Canter ended in divorce.