James F. Cernik had time for anyone who stopped to talk

January 13, 1994|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Staff Writer

James F. Cernik, who was known as the "Unofficial Mayor of Norrisville" in Harford County, died Monday of a ruptured aorta at Fallston General Hospital. He was 74.

"He'd sit on a park bench in front of his farm on Duncan Road and wave to all passers-by," said his daughter, Patricia Morrison of Jarrettsville. "He loved smoking his El Producto Specials and passing the time waving at school buses and all who drove by each day.

"A student who used to see my Dad said, 'Mr. Jim won't be waving at the school bus anymore,' " Mrs. Morrison said. "There would be so many people stopped by the road, we'd say, 'Are you charging tolls, Dad?'

"A wife would send her husband out for crabs, and he wouldn't return, and sure enough, they'd call and the husband was parked out front talking to Dad."

He retired in 1980 to his 12-acre farm where he kept the grass neatly trimmed with his collection of tractors.

The collection features many models, the oldest being a 1947 Ford tractor.

"He kept the farm looking like a park," said Mrs. Morrison, "and he kept track of what section he cut in a diary so it always looked beautiful."

He enjoyed building bridges on his property. "He built an Oriental-style bridge and a covered bridge," Mrs. Morrison said. "He'd get pictures, make blueprints and then would go out and build them."

Mr. Cernik retired in 1980 after 10 years as a longshoreman. From 1946 until 1970, he and his mother operated the Mitchell Seafood Co. in the Cross Street Market.

"His customers used to call him 'Mitch' because he bought the business from the Mitchell family," Mrs. Morrison said. "The day my grandmother died, he walked out of the stall and never went back."

He was born and reared in Orangeville and attended city schools. He was a 1936 graduate of City College and attended Towson State College, planning to become a teacher. He worked his way through college doing odd jobs and driving the college bus. He had completed his third year but his studies were interrupted by World War II. He served in the Army and was discharged in 1945.

Mrs. Morrison described her father as a charitable man.

"My Dad was very generous and when he was in the seafood business, he tried to help people out who were needy and hungry. He was always giving people money and food who came to his door," she said.

"When I was born, he was so grateful that I was normal that he donated money to the Shriner's Hospital for Crippled Children, and they recognized him as a lifetime donor for his gift," Mrs. Morrison said.

He was active in King David Lodge No. 68 and the Boumi Temple.

Services were scheduled for 11 a.m. today at Schimunek Funeral Home, 9705 Belair Road, Perry Hall, with interment in Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens.

Other survivors include his wife, the former Ruth Bennett, whom he married in 1945; two grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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