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W.Va. town mourns trucking heir

March 19, 1997

By ELLEN LYON

Staff Writer

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Harry Theodore "Ted" Compton Jr. left the Southern Belle Restaurant on U.S. 522 sometime after 9 p.m. Monday, according to former business associate Phil McCoy.

Compton, 54, was alone and hobbling on a crutch because he said he had a pinched nerve in his back, but other than that he seemed his usual self, McCoy recalled.

About four hours later West Virginia State Police found Compton dead in his home, the victim of a stabbing. Two Illinois women have been charged with murder in the case.

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On Tuesday, residents and business people in the small community of Berkeley Springs expressed shock at Compton's violent death.

"It'll be a loss to the community. He had a big business and employed a lot of people here at one time. It's a real tragedy," said Realtor Connie Perry.

Compton was well-known in Morgan County as the chief executive officer of T.H. Compton Trucking, a once-successful family business that fell on hard times, laid off more than 60 employees in 1992 and finally shut down last year.

Friends and business associates said Compton was troubled by the closing of his company.

"I know it bothered him. He had a tough time dealing with it," said George Didawick, who was manager of the U.S. Silica plant in Berkeley Springs when T.H. Compton Trucking hauled sand for the company.

Didawick said he first met Compton about 20 years ago at an appreciation dinner Compton held for his employees at the lodge at Cacapon State Park.

Some of his former employees remained friends with him after the business closed and others didn't, Didawick said.

"The economy got bad. He bought a lot of new trucks," old friend Larry Hawkins said. "He was a very successful businessman at one time."

His grandfather started the trucking company in the 1930s in Great Cacapon, his father continued it, and Compton himself started working there as a teenager in 1955, retired executive vice president Gary Hofe said.

"He started very actively in management when he was like 16," Hofe recalled.

The company moved its terminal to a site six miles south of Berkeley Springs in 1965.

"Ted was extremely helpful, a kind person. I'm sure he had his faults as we all do. But he helped many, many people along the way. He worked extremely hard in the business, especially in earlier years," Hofe said.

In its heyday Compton Trucking operated 125 trucks and 200 trailers, Compton's daughter Trena Youngblood said.

Neighbors of Compton's in the Merrywoods subdivision said he was away from home a lot and kept to himself but he was known to plow driveways for other residents when it snowed.

Compton enjoyed a good time and took frequent trips to Florida in recent years, according to some who knew him.

"He liked to party," Didawick said.

Barbara Perry, owner of the Southern Belle Restaurant, and her son David Perry, fondly recalled a friendship with Compton that dated back 27 years to when the Perrys first bought the truck stop.

"We helped him. He helped us. We worked together as businesses," Barbara Perry said.

"Seemed like a lot of people liked him. He was a lot of fun and always joking around," she said.

Lately, Compton had become interested in restoring antique cars, Hofe said.

"He also loved his dogs," which numbered eight, and he had recently added a rabbit to his collection of pets, Hawkins said.

Compton leaves his wife, Joann Esther Kerns Compton, four daughters and a son.

Staff Writer Dave McMillion contributed to this story.

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