MELROSE — If there is one story that captures Charles W. Therit Jr., it is theone his sisters and brother tell about the national archery competition in Texas.
Just before the contest, Therit, an avid archer, found out the bow of one of his fellow competitors was broken and neededrepairing.
Therit took the bow and spent part of the night fixing and res
tringing it. The next day, the archer used the repaired bow to win the tournament. Therit placed fourth.
"Charlie Therit was a genuinenice guy," said Alvin "Mick" Schmidt, a friend since childhood. "AllCharlie did his entire life was help people."
Members of the tightly knit community here are still in shock over the death of the 51-year-old North Carroll man, shot at point-blank range while working athis hardware store Wednesday night.
Maryland State Police still are investigating the slaying, the firsthomicide in Carroll this year.The body was taken to the Medical Examiner's Office in Baltimore foran autopsy.
They are looking for a suspect who was described as awhite male in his late 30s or early 40s with a stocky build, between5-foot-8 and 5-foot-10, and weighing about 200 pounds.
Police said the suspect was last seen speaking with Therit at the Deep Run Hardware store at about 7:30 p.m. He was thought to be driving a dark- orrust-colored pickup truck with Pennsylvania license plates.
If police are able to catch Therit's killer, people in Manchester and the nearby community of Melrose want to ask him a question:
"Why did you kill him? That's the question I would like to ask," said Edward Shock, whose family owns Jo-Ed's Delicatessen, located next to the hardware store. "Charlie would give you the shirt off his back."
Shock, who had known Therit for several years, was the second person to reach Therit's body. He had been next door working at the carryout whena neighbor came in and said something had happened to Therit.
Shock said he rushed over and found Therit on the floor. He was mortallywounded, with a gunshot blast to his face.
People are upset that a "genuinely kind" man was so callously gunned down in their community.
"This never happens in this area," said Schmidt, his friend fornearly 40 years. "You can see it on the television or read it in thenewspapers and you can forget it in a minute, but now it is in our own backyard and has happened to somebody we know."
People in the community can't explain why he was singled out.
They said they are convinced that it must have been a random act of violence -- one thatis more common in large cities like Baltimore rather than in suburban Carroll.
"Nobody ever said anything bad about him," said MichaelMartin, a longtime customer of the hardware store. "It is really unbelievable."
Therit and his family are well known in the area. His father ran a grocery and general store for years.
Therit, who graduated in 1959 from North Carroll High School, was always known for his ability to work with his hands. In high school, he built drag racers. When he got married, he helped rebuild and remodel his house, according to his sister, Shirley.
For several years, he was an avid beekeeper; even after he gave up that hobby, he still would stock supplies at the hardware store. He was quick to offer advice to any buddying apiarist, even to the point of offering to drive to Virginia to obtain bees for their hives, family and friends said.
But his real passion was archery.
Therit was a state champion several times and competed in national-level tournaments on several occasions. In 1980,he competed in the world tournament in Watkins Glen, N.Y.
"He could have competed on the Olympic level," said Schmidt, who also took up archery. "He had a good work ethic. He would spend the time necessary to master something."
In 1990, the hardware store, which had been in the basement, moved up to the first floor of the building that sits a few yards off Hanover Pike. Therit had operated the hardware store for 15 years and made it into a good business that provided personalized service.
"If somebody came in and this was their first purchase of archery equipment, Mr. Therit would take an hour or an hourand a half to make sure they were fitted properly," said Nancy Stickles, who worked with Therit in the hardware store for eight years.
For those people who couldn't wait to shoot their bows and arrows, Therit set up targets behind the store.
If a customer was having trouble hitting the target and needed some pointers, Therit would take the time to show them how to shoot properly, Stickles recalled.
Inthe basement of the store, he would conduct safety and shooting seminars for children in 4-H or in local archery clubs.
"He worked so well with these children," Stickles said.
In return, the local gunand archery clubs helped raise money to pay for the cancer treatments Therit needed.
About five years ago, he discovered he had lymphoma.
His sister, Ellen Hopkins, said he never let the disease interfere with his work or his family.
She said there had been a "closecall" last year, but about a year ago, he began to recover and most recently the disease was in remission.
"Like all cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, he would have his good days and his bad, but he would always work," said his brother, Dale.
"It wasn't until hehad cancer that he really took time off."
Several of his friends said it was a tragedy that a man of such integrity and courage shoulddie such a terrible death.
"To tell the truth, a large part of myfaith in human nature died in that store last Wednesday," said Schmidt.