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Leather was dedicated -- to his customers, his church, his family

October 01, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Harold Lee Leather, who died Sept. 25 at the age of 85. His obituary appeared in the Sept. 27 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.




For more than 30 years, Harold Leather was postmaster of the post office in Chewsville, as well as proprietor of Leather Grocery Store in Chewsville - both 365 days a year.

He took that responsibility very seriously in the little community midway between Hagerstown and Smithsburg.

"He had an operation once. He put a cot in the back so he could get up to wait on customers," daughter-in-law Linda Leather said.

Harold L. Leather died Sept. 25 at the age of 85.

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His only son, Sidney, said his father retired as postmaster in 1986. He had given up the store a few years earlier.

Originally, the post office was a section inside the store measuring about 8 square feet. Now, the post office occupies the entire brick building that once had been the store.

When Sid thinks of his father, he remembers his quiet patience, his love of family and friends, and fierce loyalty to his customers.

"He did it all and mom worked with him ... we all worked in the store," Sid said.

The store was open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Nephew Glenn Peterson and Sid said they would work in the store when Harold and Eleanor went to postal conventions - usually their only vacations.

Harold once told his son that he thought the hardest thing he ever had to do was to bury his wife in 1998. But in January, Harold attended his granddaughter's funeral after she died in a traffic accident.

"Dad said that almost killed him," Sid said of the tragic death of Tracey Leather, 26, Sid and Linda's only daughter.

Sid was born in 1949 in the family homeplace, which was just eight houses from the store and post office.

"Dad would sell penny candy in the store," Sid said. "He would wait patiently with a paper bag in his hand while the children sat on the floor and decided what to get."

Harold routinely ran "tabs" for regular customers, allowing them to buy what they needed and pay later.

Pinching little girls on their cheeks also was one of Harold's habits.

"Our nieces would come up from Baltimore and always wanted to go to the store," said Carole Peterson, Glenn's wife.

After Harold gave up the store and retired from the post office, he built a house on the same lot, but fronting Jefferson Boulevard.

"Dad wanted a fireplace and everything on one floor," Sid said. He got all that, plus a place for his beloved grandfather clock.

All through his working and retirement years, Harold was faithful in his church, Christ Reformed United Church of Christ in nearby Cavetown.

"Dad was an elder emeritus at church," Sid said.

Harold received a plaque for more than 40 years of folding church bulletins at the store.

Grandsons Eric and Chad called him granddaddy. Eric said he enjoyed spending weeks at a time with his grandparents when he was younger, going to the store and playing Wiffle ball in the yard.

Until about a year ago, Harold still was doing his own yard work, Sid said. Eric recently had taken over the riding mower duties in the large backyard, while Sid handled the push mower in the front.

"Dad would always want to pay me," Sid said. "I'd just tell him to give me a hug."

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