He loved music and wanted to study at the Peabody Conservatory, but as the youngest of four sons, there was no money left for him to go to school after his three brothers did.
A year later, when his parents had saved some money, he already had gotten a taste of the work world and no longer wanted to go to college.
“He had a strong work ethic instilled from his parents and growing up on a farm,” said daughter Beverly “Bev” Lawyer Wiederman of Manassas, Va.
Instead, Milton, known as “Milt” in the Smithburg area, or by his middle name “Delmer” by his wife or those in Thurmont, Md., where he grew up, worked a variety of jobs.
He sold insurance, worked at Fairchild, owned and ran several restaurants in Hagerstown, then started a body shop in Hagerstown, before moving the business — called Smithsburg Auto Body, among other things — to Smithsburg in 1963.
“I remember when he would work three jobs when I was in high school because he said his wife had to buy the best for their children. And to this day, I never, ever heard my father once complain about working,” Bev said. “He was a worker. He was proud to work.”
Smithsburg Auto Body Shop, Towing, Auto Parts & Auto Sales still operates in town, now owned by Milt’s younger son, Brian Lawyer of Wolfsville, Md.
“That’s where I grew up. I grew up in the garage,” said Brian, who was in first grade when the family moved to Smithsburg.
While building up the business, they lived in a new trailer Milt had purchased, until a fire in the shop destroyed the business and trailer.
Milt was painting a car and in those days, the paint was heated on a hot plate. Something spilled and ignited. Milt got out safely, with a minor burn.
“He was a master of his craft,” Brian said.
Oldest siblings Bev and Milton “Buddy” Delmer Lawyer Jr. already had graduated from North Hagerstown High School — Bev in 1959 and Buddy in 1961.
“Once we graduated, we were gone,” Bev said.
Milt rebuilt the business and expanded it several times, Brian said. In 1968, the family moved into the house next door.
In his later years, Milt would sit in the front window, watching the comings and goings from the business and on Water Street in town.
Early on, the business also sold gas and groceries, so it was a real community gathering place.
“A lot of young people would knock on the door at 11 o’clock or midnight and want a dollar’s worth of gas and he’d get out of bed,” Brian said. “He was always very trusting and always helping people out in the community.”
Tow calls came around the clock and Brian remembers one Thanksgiving when he and his father had to leave the family’s holiday dinner for a towing job.