Wolfgang H. Kahle, 91, gardener, lithographer and outdoorsman

April 18, 2004|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Wolfgang Heinz Kahle, a retired lithographer and accomplished gardener, died of congestive heart failure Tuesday at Ivy Manor Chestnut Assisted Living. The Ellicott City resident was 91.

Born in Sangerhausen, Germany, near the Harz Mountains, he was orphaned at the age of 6 when his father, a soldier, was killed in World War I. His mother died in the 1918 influenza pandemic.

A grandmother who had immigrated to Philadelphia tried to bring him to the United States, but immigration quotas prevented him and an older brother from coming until 1926. He sailed from Bremen on the SS Columbus to Ellis Island in New York Harbor. About 10 years ago, he returned to Ellis Island, where his name was listed on a marker honoring immigrants who came through the processing center.

Mr. Kahle enrolled in a Philadelphia night school, learned English and was a bank runner before becoming a lithographer at Penn Litho, where he worked for 42 years. He retired in 1974.

In 1940 he met Eleanor Kennedy at the Pathfinders Hiking Club in Philadelphia. They married a year later and spent their honeymoon camping in Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains.

"He was a tall, slender and broad-shouldered man with a huge shock of beautiful brown hair with a silver tint," said a daughter, Meryl Eddy of Ellicott City. "He was very involved with nature and rejoiced in the outdoors."

In 1943 he was drafted into the Army and served in an infantry division in Italy, where he fought against German units. He was awarded a Bronze Star.

"My father never expressed emotions ordinarily, but we found the letters he wrote to my mother during the war. They are full of poetry and beautiful prose," said a daughter, Judy M.K. Sell of Horseheads, N.Y. "He could quote Goethe from memory, and he was always an incredible reader."

Family members said he helped mark the original Horseshoe Trail near Valley Forge, Pa. The path leads to the Appalachian Trail.

Mr. Kahle and his wife, who died last year, were searching for a permanent campsite in 1954. They found an abandoned farmhouse facing the Elk River outside Chesapeake City. They paid $5,500 for the half-acre lot and home, which he repaired for summer use.

After retiring in 1974, Mr. Kahle and his wife moved to Cecil County permanently and put a heating plant in the home.

On its half-acre lot, he kept peach, plum, pear and apricot trees. He had a grape arbor, and raised rhubarb, squash, peppers, raspberries and blackberries. He kept its perimeter lined with sunflowers.

"It was a practical garden," Mrs. Sell said. "He won some prizes at the Cecil County Fair and grew beautiful tomatoes."

Mr. Kahle and his wife enrolled at a Cecil County Community College bird-carving class. Mr. Kahle carved the wooden birds and his wife painted them, which they gave as gifts. They also visited dozens of national parks, and traveled through Asia and Europe.

They moved in 1998 to Ellicott City, where Mr. Kahle liked to walk a route near Mount Hebron High School. He joined Bethany United Methodist Church in Ellicott City, where a memorial service was held Friday.

In addition to his daughters, survivors include another daughter, Wendy K. Mitten of Dover, Del.; eight grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

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