Herman L. "Dinky" Wockenfuss, a Northeast Baltimore candy maker whose family's much-sought-after confections have been tempting candy lovers and expanding waistlines for nearly a century, died Monday of heart failure at his Kingsville home. He was 92.
The son of Herman Charles Wockenfuss and Ryda B. Hudson Wockenfuss, Herman Lee Wockenfuss was born in Baltimore and raised in Gardenville.
His father, an immigrant from West Prussia, came to Baltimore in 1887. He established the Wockenfuss Candy Co. in a Chase Street building.
"It was nearly a block long and was behind the house on Chase Street," said Mr. Wockenfuss' son, Paul Wockenfuss, who has owned the business, now called Wockenfuss Candies, since 1998.
Years ago, their products were sold from stalls in the Belair, Cross Street, Northeast and Hollins markets, his son said.
"They later moved it to a house on Southern Avenue in Gardenville, where Herman Charles Wockenfuss made candy in the basement," he said. "He made primarily taffy and hard candy."
A 1939 graduate of Polytechnic Institute, Herman L. Wockenfuss, who had been trained as a machinist, enlisted in the Army. While training to be a paratrooper, he injured his knees and was given a medical discharge.
During World War II, he remained as a civilian employee of the Army and worked at Pearl Harbor as a machinist.
After the war, Mr. Wockenfuss and his wife, the former Marian Buettner, whom he married in 1944, purchased the candy company from his father in 1945 and took over its operation.
The young couple later moved the business to a home at 5514 Belair Road in Gardenville, where they continued making candy in the basement.
"In 1956, he had the front yard dug up and they put in a storefront," said his son, who said his father developed many of the candy-making company's recipes.
"Chocolate candy really became popular in the 1950s, when air-conditioning came along, because it was hot to make in kettles in the summer, and we never sold much candy anyway during the summer months," he said.
"He was instrumental in creating the signature homemade chocolates that are now synonymous with the Wockenfuss name," said Chris Butler, a granddaughter who lives in Baltimore.
Wockenfuss purchases its chocolate from Peter's Chocolate in Lititz, Pa., which goes into about 70 types of chocolate confections. They include chocolate-covered marshmallows, fudge, chocolate- and caramel-coated apples, strawberry-filled bonbons, milk chocolate Lady Bugs, bite-size truffles, chocolate-covered almonds, Belgium creams, Heavenly Rocky Road Bars, and the large nonpareils that are the company's No. 1 seller.
The company also sells hard candy, lollipops, jelly beans and licorice, which are not made by the company. Wockenfuss also makes seasonal specialties such as chocolate-covered hearts for Valentine's Day and Easter candy.
Several years ago, Paul Wockenfuss moved the business to its present location, a 12,000-square-foot production facility at 6831 Harford Road.
"It had been a former supermarket in the 1950s and 1960s, and we were able to go from a two-story operation to having all of our manufacturing on one level," he said.
In addition to its present Harford Road location, the elder Mr. Wockenfuss had expanded the business to include stores in Bel Air, White Marsh Mall, The Mall in Columbia, North Plaza Shopping Center and three stores in Ocean City.
"He was a good businessman, and for the last 15 years before he retired in 2004, he ran the White Marsh store," his son said. "He loved the selling end of the business and liked talking to people. He was still coming in until 2006, when he suffered a fall."
His father, Paul Wockenfuss said, was particularly fond of the company's honeycomb sponge, nougats and molasses taffy pops.
Mr. Wockenfuss had been an active member of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Kingsville. In 1963, he was a member of the founding board of Baltimore Lutheran School and had served on the board of St. Paul's Lutheran Church and school. He retained a lifelong interest in the two schools.
He enjoyed taking road trips and boating, and had obtained a pilot's license. He also was an "animated storyteller with a great knowledge of history and geography," said Ms. Butler.
"He enjoyed life. He was a very kind and compassionate person," said his son, who lives in Timonium.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at his church, 12022 Jerusalem Road, Kingsville.
In addition to his wife, son and granddaughter, Mr. Wockenfuss is survived by two daughters, Joan Scherch of Nottingham and Carole Hemphill of Warrenton, Va.; eight other grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.