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James Edward Houck Jr.,
former Emmitsburg mayor, dies

(4/1) James Edward Houck Jr., former Emmitsburg Mayor and Korean War veteran, died on Saturday, March 14, at his home in La Plata, MD at the age of 84. Houck was elected to the position of Emmitsburg Mayor in 1961 by a mere four votes over the incumbent Clarence Frailey.

Mayor Houck was born in Emmitsburg, Maryland in 1930 to the late Agnes Helena Rosensteel Houck and the late James Edward Houck Sr. He spent the first 32 years of his life living in Emmitsburg. Houck grew up working in the family business, Ed’s Place otherwise known as Houck’s store. His father had started the store in 1924 on the Northeast corner of the Town Square.

In January 1952 he was inducted into the army and served during the Korean War until 1954. He was Honorably Discharged at the rank of Sergeant. Upon his return from Korea, Houck took over the family business. Houck and his wife would keep the business running for another 8 years.

Don Rodger, who worked in the family store said: "Ed was kind to everyone. In those days, there weren't any credit cards so when a customer had to "charge" items it meant writing it in the book and keeping track of payments (with no interest) until the debt was paid. In particular, I recall Ed extending credit when it came to someone needing shoes or clothing for their children starting school. I am sure that, many times, Ed had to write off the debt."

Houck was instrumental in many post war improvements to Emmitsburg, including the paving of the town’s alleys, the town’s purchase of the then privately owned Emmitsburg Water Company, the reestablishments of the town’s library, the re-opening on the town’s only movie theater - the Gem Theater, and the development of Emmit Gardens and it’s eventual incorporation into the town limits.

It was during Houck’s tenure that that the state put in the Route 15 bypass to the east of town. The bypass cut the planned size of the Emmit Garden development in half.

Along operating Houck’s store and being Mayor of Emmitsburg, Houck was active in the Vigilant Hose Company, was the scoutmaster for Emmitsburg Boy Scouts and Explorer Scouts, a charter member of the old Emmitsburg Chamber of Commerce; Chairman of the Emmitsburg Community Development Committee, and was the first recipient of the Emmitsburg Jaycees' Distinguished Service Award for outstanding service to the community.

Houck and his wife moved to the La Plata in 1967 were he continued his retail and philanthropic career. In the later part of his life he served on the National Capital Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America and became a professional boy scout.

While Mayor Houck made the decision to move away from Emmitsburg, his son Joseph Houck said of his father, "He truly loved Emmitsburg. You could take the man out of Emmitsburg, but you could never take Emmitsburg out of the man."

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