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'Shorty' Cosgrove stands tall at his job and in his garden

January 12, 2006|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note: There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like...

Name: Harry "Shorty" Cosgrove

Age: 89

Hometown: Hagerstown

Where would you see Cosgrove?: Standing 5-foot-1, it's clear why Harry Cosgrove's friends call him Shorty. The nickname isn't the only thing Cosgrove is known for.

He's familiar to many after 50 years of service at Steffey & Findlay Inc. - and for the many photographs of him in The Daily Mail's "From the Garden" feature, showing his unique vegetables.

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Cosgrove was born in Blairs Valley to a farming family, and raising a garden was a given. They moved around quite a bit as his father took jobs working for other farmers.

He attended the two-room schoolhouse in Cearfoss through the eighth grade, then helped with the family farm and worked for neighbors. Shorty remembers working for 25 cents a day and one meal.

When Cosgrove married Mary Isabel Lesure in 1945, the family garden tradition continued. They planted their garden side-by-side, planting seeds for sweet potatoes, squash, cabbage, green beans, corn and salsify, which Shorty said tastes likes oysters when stewed.

The Cosgroves were married for 57 years when Shorty's wife died about 15 months ago.

"I don't know what she did right or what I did right," Shorty said of being blessed with so many years together.

Despite a bad hip, Cosgrove still plants a garden every year, but his daughter, who lives next door, gets most of the produce. Cosgrove's other daughter lives in Jacksonville, Fla.

He likes to order his seeds from the Harris catalog, a New York company, because of their selection.

"It's getting so you can't buy old-time seeds anymore," Cosgrove said.

Hobbies: Cosgrove said that besides gardening and taking care of his house, he doesn't do much anymore because of his hip. He has breakfast at Junction 808 most days and occasionally co-workers from Steffey & Findlay will meet him there in the morning.

What does Cosgrove like best about Washington County?: "It's just about as good a place to stay as any. Once you stay in one place, it's hard to get out of," Cosgrove said.

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