Howard L. “Buddy” Poe Sr., an Army veteran who was a founder of Buddy’s Pool Service in Cockeysville, was stricken Dec. 2 with a fatal heart attack while at work. The Baldwin resident was 80.
Maurice R. Wyatt, a retired lawyer, has been a friend and customer for 50 years.
“He built my pool when he was working for Ira Rigger,” Mr. Wyatt said. “He took great pride in his workmanship and service, and the only thing he cared about was that people were happy with his work.”
Richard C. Vaughan, a friend who lives in Lohman, Missouri, said: “Buddy was the best friend I ever had. I met him more than 40 years ago at a pool convention somewhere in the Caribbean. He was highly respected in the pool business and admired by everyone. He’s the sort of guy who’d give you the shirt off his back.”
Howard Louis Poe Sr., who was known as Buddy, was the son of William Howard Poe, a quarryman, who worked at the Campbell Quarry in Cockeysville, and his wife, Isabelle Howard Poe, a homemaker, was born and raised in Cockeysville.
A 1959 graduate of Towson High School, he served in the Army until being honorably discharged in 1962.
He began working in the swimming pool industry in 1960 and worked for 19 years as a swimming pool service manager for Rigger Construction Co., which built many pools across the state and in Virginia, as well as for many numerous Ocean City hotels.
In 1961, he married the former Loretta Coburn and the couple eventually settled into a home on Radcliffe Road in Towson. When Rigger Construction Co. closed their swimming pool division, Mr. Poe and his wife established Buddy’s Pool Service in 1979 in the basement of their rowhouse home. They added a business telephone line and Mrs. Poe assumed the job of bookkeeper.
“When Rigger stopped building pools, Buddy was devastated. He had a wife and two kids,” recalled Mr. Wyatt. “He came around and said, ‘What am I going to do now?’ I suggested he go home and talk to Loretta and go into the pool business, and that’s what he did. It really is a great American success story.”
Because many of Rigger’s customers knew Mr. Poe as Buddy, the couple decided to name their business Buddy’s Pool Service. In addition to building 40 custom swimming pools a year, the company also provides retail products, sells hot tubs, and for the last 42 years, has serviced thousands of residential and commercial pools in Maryland.
The couple’s two children work in the family-owned business as does his wife.
Mr. Poe, who had not retired at his death, still was meeting personally with crews and customers in the backyards of their homes, family members said.
“Even though he became a very successful guy, he stayed the same man as he was before,” Mr. Wyatt said.
He was an active member of the Pool & Hot Tub Association.
“Buddy’s Pool Service was Dad’s livelihood and passion,” said his daughter, Karen Brown, of Monkton, in her eulogy. “Mom and Dad often said that Buddy’s Pool service was their third child. To be honest, I was hoping for a sister.”
“Dad was a great business owner! When he made a deal, he stuck to it. It was not uncommon for my Dad to give customers upgrades when building their pools, or when installing their equipment and not charge anything extra. He just enjoyed honoring his word and doing what was necessary to allow customers to enjoy their pool,” Ms. Brown said.
“Dad loved taking care of other people’s needs before his own,” she said. “He did it without hesitation for his family, friends, employees and customers. He extended invitations to holiday dinners to anyone he thought would be alone.”
Mr. Vaughan said: “He always paid cash for everything and he and Loretta did real well.”
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In her eulogy, Ms. Brown described her father as “rugged, hardworking, old school, salt of the earth, stubborn, and yes — at times — downright hardheaded!”
“Mr. Poe was a beloved figure around Cockeysville, and was “Cockeysville’s Norm from Cheers.” Everyone knew his name! Especially at the Ashland Cafe,” Ms. Brown said.
Mr. Poe enjoyed fishing for rockfish in the Chesapeake Bay and deep-sea fishing trips in Mexico. He also liked hunting deer, wild turkeys, bear and elk, and was an avid Ravens fan.
“We hunted all over the United States, and we were supposed to go turkey hunting in Missouri this spring,” Mr. Vaughan said.
Mr. Poe was a member of Texas United Methodist Church in Cockeysville.
Services were held Dec. 9 at the Lemmon Funeral Home.
In addition to his wife of 60 years and his daughter, Mr. Poe is survived by his son, Howard L. “Buddy” Poe Jr. of Towson; a brother, Vernon Poe of Parkville; a sister, Elizabeth “Libby” Smith of Timonium; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.