Clara Heyl, 82, candy-maker known for chocolate-covered strawberries

November 10, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Clara B. Heyl, a Northeast Baltimore candy-maker who was known for her glistening hand-dipped chocolate-covered strawberries, died of heart failure Tuesday at the Masonic Home of Maryland in Cockeysville. She was 82 and lived in Hamilton.

The former Clara B. Martin was born in Mount Rainer, Prince George's County, one of five children. Because her family was impoverished, she was placed in a foster home in Brooklyn Park, where she was raised by Alice Ault.

An honor student and outstanding athlete at Southern High School, she graduated in 1937 at age 16. She also had studied piano at the Peabody Conservatory.

Too young to enter nursing school, she attended Baltimore Business College, and after graduation worked as a secretary in Baltimore and later in Washington for the U.S. Department of Labor.

After her marriage in 1941 to David J. Heyl Sr., she settled into life as a homemaker, raising four children.

After working as a stenographer in the War Department, selling Electrolux vacuum cleaners and in the personnel department of the Glenn L. Martin Co. in Middle River, Mr. Heyl became interested in making candy.

In 1964, after Mr. Heyl finished a three-year apprenticeship, they purchased Moore's Candy, which had been established by Albert Moore in 1919 near Patterson Park.

The Heyls moved upstairs over the business, which has been in a brick house on Pinewood Avenue in Hamilton since 1929. They retained the Moore's Candy name.

While her husband made the candy, Mrs. Heyl supervised the operation of the shop and its staff.

"Her skills enhanced the development of many fine chocolates, including her all-natural method that ensured the freshness of chocolate-covered strawberries for up to five days," said her daughter, Nancy L. Siegert of Monkton. "She was always looking for ways to improve things and the recipes that came with the business. Between the two of them, they had the talents to run a small business and did it well."

Gifted with an outgoing personality, Mrs. Heyl was the goodwill ambassador for the business, Mrs. Siegert said.

"She proudly described the quality and freshness of all their products with anyone she met," her daughter said.

Since the couple retired in 1981, the business has been operated by a son, D. James Heyl Jr. of Lutherville.

"My parents' philosophy was that you gave customers a quality product, and you never lowered your standards," said Mr. Heyl.

While chocolate-covered strawberries and other specialty candies such as chocolate-covered cherries, raisins and nougat, might have been tempting, Mrs. Heyl confined her chocolate intake to chocolate-covered caramels.

"Until she died, she'd eat a chocolate-covered caramel a day," said Mrs. Siegert. "She didn't have a sweet tooth. She was a meat-and-potatoes eater."

Mrs. Heyl also enjoyed providing candy for numerous fund-raising drives throughout the area.

"She donated candy to the Shriners for their fund-raising efforts so they could buy shoes for children," said Philip F. Haxel, former president of F.W. Haxel Co., the Baltimore flag and pennant maker, and a customer for more than 35 years.

"You see, I'm a chocoholic, and her chocolate-covered almonds were my favorite. But I loved going in there anyway to sample the candy to make sure it was all right," he said, laughing.

Mrs. Heyl enjoyed cooking and entertaining her family and was an accomplished seamstress.

She was a member of St. Matthew United Church of Christ, the Order of the Eastern Star and Bou-Tem-Sci of Baltimore Inc.

Services were held Friday.

In addition to her son and daughter, Mrs. Heyl is survived by another son, Michael R. Heyl of Gaithersburg; a daughter, Claire F. Hufnagel of Jarrettsville; a brother, Floyd B. Martin Sr. of Lanham; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Her husband died in 1999.

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