Robert M. Six, a lifelong equestrian with a renowned and contagious passion for hunting, horses and hounds, died Tuesday in a Forest Hill nursing home of congestive heart failure. The longtime Fallston resident was 94.
Mr. Six worked as a groom, was a devoted fox hunter, participated in and judged hound and horse shows, founded a jousting club, loved to watch horse races, and kept horses and up to 20 hounds at a time on his small farm in Fallston. Long after he was able to fox hunt or attend races -- indeed, until the day he died -- he would ask friends and family detailed questions about recent equestrian events. He never stepped out of his home, even to go into the yard, without one of his tweed horseman's caps.
Mr. Six, the son of a blacksmith, grew up around horses in Baltimore County. One of his first jobs was as a groom for Alfred Smithwick, a member of the Elkridge-Harford Hunt Club. Later, he worked as a groom for Harvey S. Ladew, a wealthy sporting gentleman and avid hunter whose Harford County farm, where he raced, entertained and gardened, is today home of the Ladew Topiary Gardens.
On a recent visit to the gardens and the old stables where he had worked, Mr. Six pointed to each stall and named the horse that had been stabled there, said Maryanna Skowronski, who grew up with one of Mr. Six's granddaughters and said she fox-hunts today because of Mr. Six.
Mr. Six then went to work at Kunkel Service Co., an automobile parts distributor where he worked as a truck driver for more than 30 years.
However, he never strayed far from the sporting events he loved. Sometimes, when his wife leaned on him to go to a "dressy occasion" he would feign illness, said his granddaughter Bonnie Six of White Hall. "But anything with the hunt club or horses, he was gone. He'd instantly recover and be out the door," she said.
A perfectionist, Mr. Six could spend half a day getting a horse ready for a show or event, said his son Robert Stephen Six of Bel Air. "That horse would shine like new money," he said. "But he wouldn't spend 15 minutes washing his car."
Mr. Six was married to the former Eleanor Cochran for more than 50 years, until her death in 1999.
A great storyteller with a rolling laugh, Mr. Six was known by many as Uncle Bob, his granddaughter said. People came to him for horse advice or just to listen to his somewhat embellished stories and "laugh until you cried and your stomach hurt."
The day before he died, though he could barely speak, he was quizzing his granddaughter about her recent adventures chasing rabbits with beagles. "Had he been able to, he would have gone with me," she said.
At Mr. Six's funeral Friday, a friend blew a hunting horn, signaling "gone to ground" and then "gone away."
In addition to his son and granddaughter, Mr. Six is survived by a sister, Elsie Six Dell of Shrewsbury, Pa.; six other grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by a son, John G. Six.