J. Michael "Mike" Boyd

June 11, 2011|By JANET HEIM |
  • J. Michael "Mike" Boyd rests his head on Jane's shoulder during a family photo session in the 1990s.
Submitted Photo

For more than 30 years, J. Michael "Mike" Boyd's vehicle was identifiable by his personalized license plates — WEEDS. The plates, which summed up his passion for his career in agronomy, drew attention wherever he traveled, his family said.

"He did it all his life. He did it until the day he died," Jane Boyd said of her husband's work.

"He was still out in the field training guys," said oldest daughter Tracy Boyd of Frederick, Md. She added that although he had trouble walking, in the field he used a golf cart with high treads, the cart personalized with "Weeds" in stick-on letters.

"Bigger than life" is how Mike is remembered, both in stature and in heart. His zest for life showed in his extensive travels, social calendar and large circle of friends.

Mike was considered an innovator in his field, as well as at home. The family's Fountain Head home is filled with "contraptions" he'd come up with, said son Steve Boyd.

One Halloween, daughter Jill Boyd of Columbia, Md., said she wanted to be a question mark and Mike created a costume out of cardboard for her. And he once hemmed the pants of Steve's prom tuxedo with a staple gun.

Mike grew up in a southwest suburb of Philadelphia, where he met his future wife, Jane Priestley. They met in high school when they were sophomores, but he didn't ask her out on a date until their senior year, a step he took at the urging of his friends.

Mike was named most humorous in their high school graduating class and Jane was selected as most athletic.

After high school graduation, Mike went to a prep school in New Jersey for a year to improve his grades for college.

He was quite an athlete, earning a full football scholarship to University of Delaware, where he graduated in 1961 with a degree in agronomy. Jane transferred to University of Delaware after her freshman year of college and graduated from there in 1960 with a degree in health and physical education.

At Mike's funeral, MVP trading cards with a photo of him as a college football player were given out to those attending.

The couple married after Jane graduated. She got a teaching job while Mike finished his last year of college. Daughter Tracy was born in July 1961.

Mike served in the U.S. Army as a tank commander with NATO forces during the Berlin crisis. He was stationed in Germany, accompanied by Jane and Tracy.

They lived in Germany for four years and daughter Jill was born there, followed by son Steve, who was born in the U.S.

Mike and Jane's personalities complemented each other and the children learned over time that their parents were a team when it came to raising the children.

That experience in Germany sparked a love for travel, which the couple did throughout their life together, often with their children.

"We were exposed to a lot of things," Steve said.

A 30th wedding anniversary trip included travel on the Orient Express. There was golfing in Ireland, skiing in the Swiss Alps and a trip with the family to western Europe in 1977, as well as a 40th-anniversary trip to Australia, to name a few.

"We lived life to the fullest," Jane said.

Mike had a cancer scare nine years ago, but recovered. Complications after recent knee surgery led to his death and most likely were the result of weakened internal organs due to the cancer, the family believes.

Still, Steve, who is based in Los Angeles and travels internationally for his job, said there were no regrets because his parents were active throughout their marriage, not waiting until retirement to do things.

After Mike was discharged from the Army, he started a business in Newark, Del., but was recruited by Ciba-Geigy. He worked for them for more than 30 years as a field rep, covering Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia until his retirement in 1997.

Mike then founded Affiliated Ag Resources, where he consulted and developed crop protection strategies for row crops, mushrooms and orchards. He worked the last 10 years as a consultant with Willard Ag Services of Frederick, Md.

Although he was away from home a lot for work, Mike made sure his attention was on the family when he was there. Whenever the children got involved in something new, whether sports or hobbies, he was behind them 100 percent.

"He traveled a lot, but always had time," Jane said.

The Boyds settled in Hagerstown in 1968 and have lived in their Fountain Head home since 1970, grateful for the change of pace from metropolitan Philadelphia.

"We just wanted to plant ourselves here. We found comfort here," Jane said.

They enjoyed a lifestyle that include many longtime friends, from neighbors to golf buddies to business contacts.

"They had a core group of friends that they'd had a long time. Dad was the ringleader, because he liked to have a good time," Tracy said.

The family remembers Mike borrowing a tractor and using it to collect neighbors for a Kentucky Derby party.

"It hit home after the service — how he treated us is how he treated other people," Tracy said.

Mike's personality helped make him a success in his work. He always managed to see the positive in a situation.

"He wanted to know how everyone was doing. As a salesman, he learned to deal with different personalities. He figured out how to bring out the best in people," Jill said.

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