Mervin W. Amrein, 83, established Harford County produce business

August 18, 2005|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Mervin W. Amrein, former owner of a Harford County general store who later established a wholesale produce business, died of heart failure Monday at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air. The Joppa resident was 83.

Mr. Amrein was born and raised on his parents' small farm in Fallston. The Bel Air High School graduate joined the Army Air Forces in 1943. He served in England as a ground crew member and in aerial surveillance.

In 1946, he and a brother-in-law established a general store, Amrein & Iley, on Main Street in Fallston.

"It was a real general store, and they sold everything from nuts and bolts to coveralls, boots, canned goods and custom-cut meats. And they also sold Sinclair gasoline, oil and kerosene," said a son, Jerry L. Amrein of Stewartstown, Pa.

FOR THE RECORD - Mervin W. Amrein: In an obituary published in Thursday's editions of The Sun for Mervin W. Amrein, the name of a survivor was inadvertently omitted. He is also survived by a daughter, Linda Amrein Heath of Alpharetta, Ga.
The Sun regrets the error.

In 1963, Mr. Amrein sold the store and established a wholesale produce business, Melvin Amrein & Sons, in the garage behind his Joppa home, where he had installed a walk-in refrigerator.

"Every restaurant in Harford County used his services. He'd get up at 3 a.m. and then drive to the old Commission District [now the site of the Baltimore Convention Center], where he hand-selected the produce he purchased," said Kathy R. Amrein, a daughter-in-law. "After loading up his refrigerated truck, he'd return home, sort out the orders for customers and then make deliveries. His day often ended around 6 p.m."

Mr. Amrein's delivery route also included restaurants in Baltimore County.

"His produce was the best you could get. It was reasonable, and if something was wrong he made it good," said Bob Coomes, whose family had established the old White Star Restaurant in Edgewood in 1954. "We were known for our salad bar, and that salad came from Merv's truck."

"He was good with people and wasn't afraid to get up early and go to work. He'd do different routes on different days," his son said. "He was known for being dependable, and if customers needed supplies he made sure they got them. Only the worst snowstorms would stop him."

Mr. Amrein's outgoing personality and generosity of spirit made him a well-liked figure in Harford County.

"If someone gave him praise or a compliment, he'd tear up. He was such a kind and soft-hearted person," Mr. Coomes said.

"He was a man of great character who contributed lots of his time and talent to the community," said Frank Shanty, a longtime friend and retired official at the chemical research and biological weapons command at Edgewood Arsenal.

Mr. Amrein was a past president of the Democratic Club of Harford County and the Bel Air Lions Club.

After heart surgery in 1986, Mr. Amrein turned over the business to two sons, one of whom, Thomas W. Amrein of Perryville, now owns and operates the business.

Mr. Amrein also worked in public relations for Commercial & Savings Bank of Bel Air for a decade until retiring in 1987.

He enjoyed attending thoroughbred races at Maryland tracks and playing cards.

"We played pinochle every Monday night for nearly 40 years," said Alan Getz, a Bel Air lawyer. "And when leaving, he'd always say the same thing, win or lose: `Thanks, suckers.'"

Mr. Amrein was a member of Highland Presbyterian Church, 701 Highland Road in Street, where services will follow a viewing from 10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Saturday.

Surviving, in addition to his sons, are his wife of 63 years, the former Louise Iley; a brother, George Amrein of Albemarle, N.C.; two sisters, Mabel Scarborough of Glen Arm and Frances Smith of White Hall, Harford County; nine grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

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