Gerard Naron

[ Age 89 ] Co-founder of Naron Candy Co. took great pride in the quality of the products he delivered to his customers.

February 26, 2007|By Sumathi Reddy | Sumathi Reddy,Sun reporter

Gerard Naron, co-founder of the family-run Naron Candy Co. in Baltimore, died of complications from dementia Thursday at his Pikesville home. He was 89.

Born and raised in Northwest Baltimore, Mr. Naron graduated from City College in 1934. He went on to the Johns Hopkins University, graduating in 1938 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry.

He met his future wife, Selma Halpern, a student at nearby Goucher College, on a blind date in 1938. They married two years later on Dec. 1, 1940.

Mr. Naron worked at a soap manufacturing job and then at the Glenn L. Martin Co. briefly before he was drafted into the Army in 1943, said his son, Ted Naron of Chicago. Mr. Naron held the rank of sergeant and helped build and repair bridges as a member of the Civil Engineering Corps. He was stationed in Antwerp, Belgium, and was discharged in 1945.

Upon his return to Baltimore, Mr. Naron and his brother-in-law, James Zellick Ross, started the Naron Candy Co., a candy-making company specializing in high-quality chocolates.

Mr. Naron oversaw production, while Mr. Ross was in charge of sales.

The company sold candy - including chocolate-covered butter creams, Easter eggs and bonbons - through most of Baltimore's department stores, as well as drugstores and gift shops from Philadelphia to North Carolina.

"He took great pride in his product," said Ted Naron. "He used only ever the best ingredients. Pure sugar, not corn syrup. The highest cacao-content chocolate. He had a great sense of responsibility to his customers to deliver a quality product."

Ted Naron recalled his father's perplexity about how Godiva and other high-end chocolate brands could charge more than double his price when he was still making a profit and using the best ingredients.

"They couldn't possibly have been using ingredients better then he was," Ted Naron recalled his father saying, "and they were charging so much more than him. It baffled him."

Gail Chalew, Mr. Naron's daughter, recalled her father's constant worrying about whether he could fill an order - though he always did.

"He did work a lot," said Mrs. Chalew, of New Orleans. "He would worry they weren't going to fill their orders during the big seasons of Christmas and Easter. But they would always somehow pull it off in the end."

Despite his career in chocolate, Mr. Naron never overindulged, said his children. He remained a trim, strong and athletic man, and was an avid golf player.

"He knew what quality was when it came to chocolate, and he tested everything with his own palate, but he didn't have much of a sweet tooth himself," said his son.

In 1996, the company merged with Mary Sue Candies Inc. The companies were sold in 2001 to Ruxton Chocolates LLC, but the Naron name remains.

"Although the company is not in the family anymore, we're extremely proud that the Naron name continues to mean high-quality candies," said Mr. Naron's son. "My father would be extremely proud of that, too."

Family members described Mr. Naron as a hard-working, reserved man who didn't show much emotion.

"He didn't talk that much," said Mrs. Chalew. "He was all about family and his work. He was like a rock. Just really steady and something that we could rely on."

A memorial service was held yesterday at Sol Levinson & Bros. Inc., 8900 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville.

In addition to his wife and two children, survivors include a brother, Sylvan Naron of Baltimore; and four grandchildren.

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