Leon M. Lyles Sr., 95

Owner of produce store

February 23, 2007

Leon Montrose Lyles Sr., who for more than 60 years was the cowboy hat-wearing owner of Leon's Produce, died of stroke complications Saturday at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. He was 95.

Mr. Lyles was born in Irmo, S.C., and moved with his family to East Baltimore. He attended Carver Vocational Technical High School and went to work in his father's coal business in 1932.

After his father's death in 1945, Mr. Lyles continued delivering coal in the fall and winter, and added produce during the summer. From then until 1972, ge made it a motorized produce business.

"He had an old blue Ford truck, which he drove throughout the city, Towson, Dundalk, Turners Station and Sparrows Point and all points in between," said Stacey Lyles-Foster, a granddaughter. "As his truck traveled the streets, you could hear him before you saw him, shouting, `Watermelons.'"

In 1972, Mr. Lyles set up a building for his produce stand next to his home at Washington and Eager streets in East Baltimore. His stand became a gathering place for the community, where his many customers addressed him as "The Boss," or "Mr. Leon."

"He extended credit, made home deliveries and gave discounts to churches and other charitable organizations," his granddaughter said.

In 2000, Mr. Lyles received a "Channel 13 Salute" from WJZ-TV. He retired the next year,.

He was an avid sports fan and newspaper reader.

His wife of 62 years, the former Mable E. Jackson, died in 2001.

Mr. Lyles was a member of Waters African Methodist Episcopal Church, where services were held yesterday.

Surviving are three sons, Berkeley Lyles, Glenn Lyles Sr. and Jerra Lyles Sr., and two daughters, Gloria Shearin and Janice Butler, all of Baltimore; 50 grandchildren; 20 great-grandchildren; and five great-great-grandchildren. Son Leon M. Lyles Jr. died in 1975, son Kirk Lyles died in 1981, and son Cedric Lyles died in 2000.

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