Baltimore, Maryland. My grandfather, Herman ‘Dinky’ Wockenfuss, died on January 27th of this year. He was 92. More than just the head of our family, he was one of the most important people in my life. With a strong sense of adventure, a love for life and a penchant for mischief, Dinky fanned the fires for my sense of wonder for this world. I don’t come from a lineage of world travelers or eminent scientists, and some of my family would have preferred to see me in a nice “safe” line of work, like banking or insurance, or even medicine. But Dinky got what inspired me and was always the first to cheer me on.
He never went to university, but National Geographic was his 2nd Bible (the actual Bible was his 1st one) and the open road was his playground, at least when he was still young enough to drive off on a wild road trip at the drop of a hat. He understood the geography of Africa and Southeast Asia, and was aware that feral camels live in the outback of Australia. And he proudly collected and displayed the various natural history books and articles that I contributed to over the years. During times that I was away, studying at school or living in another part of the world, Dinky kept my mailbox flowing with newspaper clippings of washed up whales or rare shark sightings. And naturally there would always be a little light-hearted jabbing over why I wasn’t there to see this first hand, or how come I wasn’t the one to discover this or that amazing thing.
He was a natural storyteller, and had tales and anecdotes that would leave me spellbound. He gave me an appreciation for the art of the story. Dinky is most known for the candy company – Wockenfuss Candies – that he took over from his father and built into a Baltimore and Ocean City landmark. I grew up surrounded by chocolate and gummi bears, but the sweetest part of my youth was having this man watching over my siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles and me. He will always live on in my heart, and is sorely missed.
Here’s a nice television feature that was put together in his honor following his passing:
Some other fun photos: