Charles George Stoecker, a tax professional who helped start two Baltimore farmers' markets, died Thursday night in a car accident. He was 61.
Mr. Stoecker, of White Hall, grew up on a farm in Middle River and graduated in 1971 from the University of Maryland's agriculture college.
He was active in the College Republicans, serving as state chairman of the group and serving on the Republican State Central Committee.
It was at college that he met his future wife, Weida Frances Walker, who joined the College Republicans as a freshman. The history major from Montgomery County realized just how committed her husband was to agricultural matters when they took their honeymoon in Hawaii.
"We'd be driving along, and he'd say, `Stop! We have to take a picture. That's a weed we have at home,'" said Mrs. Stoecker, a special-education teacher at North Carroll High School. "I must have 300 pictures of weeds in Hawaii."
He left a career as an economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the 1970s to become a tax professional and was preparing to open a new office in Stewartstown, Pa., when he was killed in a head-on crash in Parkton.
Despite his career change, he remained interested in farming issues throughout his life.
In the 1980s, as dairy farmers were struggling financially, Mr. Stoecker called his congresswoman, Helen Delich Bentley, in the hope that she could provide some relief in an impending farm bill.
Mrs. Bentley said she became good friends with Mr. Stoecker's family after that.
"He was a spokesman for many of the farmers, because he was so active, and he didn't mind sticking his neck out," she said.
Mr. Stoecker also became a nutrient-management consultant for Shane Valley Associates, helping farmers figure out ways to reduce pollution from fertilizer entering the Chesapeake Bay.
Robert E. Latshaw Jr., a former state delegate and longtime family friend, saw the same kind of tenacity when Mr. Stoecker talked to him about farmers' problems - especially as the once-rural county he loved became increasingly suburban.
"Chuck was a real point guard for the farmers in Baltimore County - willing to speak up, go to meetings, write the letters and do the lobbying that was necessary that most farmers don't like to do," Mr. Latshaw said. "He was just one of the finest, hardest-working men, husbands, fathers that you would ever want to know."
Mr. Latshaw said he last saw Mr. Stoecker a few weeks ago at the Towson Farmers' Market, selling tomatoes and cucumbers.
Mr. Stoecker was a founding member of both the Waverly and downtown Baltimore farmers' markets, where he was known for his collard greens, turnip greens and kale. The Stoeckers wore green shirts with depictions of produce baskets on them and were known for their "Christmas Tree Truck" - a red flatbed with green sides, loaded with produce.
Mrs. Stoecker said she expects to be under the Jones Falls Expressway viaduct today, greens in hand.
"Chuck expects us to be there," she said. "He was my best friend since the time I met him at 18. That's 40 years that he has been there, first as a big-brother type watching out for me, then as a boyfriend, a husband, my anchor, my everything."
A funeral Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in New Freedom, Pa.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Stoecker is survived by two daughters, Miranda Lee Stoecker of Towson and Rebecca Ann Bowen Stoecker of White Hall; and two sons, Charles Francis Stoecker and Thomas Jude Walker Stoecker, both of White Hall.