Charlie Hiden could not lose. An athlete in his youth, he continued to win games into his seventies, beating his sons, traveling companions and wife in golf, billiards, cards and table tennis.
"Everything I tried, my dad would beat me at," said one of his sons, Charles Gary Hiden of New Market. "I got an A in golf in college, but I never could beat him on a golf course. He could beat me at Ping-Pong, he could beat me at pool, he could beat me in anything. Was he a good winner? Yes. He would never rub it in. He could never cheat."
Hiden, 79, who died of kidney failure July 12 at his home in Colesville, had early training in good sportsmanship. A native Washingtonian, he was an athlete at Hyattsville High School and the University of Maryland, where he played basketball and baseball. During World War II, he served in the Army in Europe. Sent to the Pacific theater, he ended up playing baseball with an Army team in the Philippines.
He was such a good athlete that after the war, he was invited to try out with the Washington Senators and Philadelphia Phillies. But at the Senators' spring training camp, he injured his left knee, ending his hopes for a professional sports career.
His days of appearing on the sports pages continued through the 1950s, when he pitched a no-hitter for a semiprofessional team in the Northern Virginia Old Dominion League and a shutout for another team while playing on the West Ellipse.
Hiden finished his University of Maryland studies after the war with a degree in physical education and began coaching and teaching in Prince George's County schools. In 1958, he was recruited to run a High's Dairy Store. By 1974, he had risen to general manager and vice president of the stores, which were owned by Frederick County and Carroll County dairy farmers organized as the Capitol Milk Producers Cooperative Inc.
Chuck Sehman, who worked across the hall from Hiden at the firm for 16 years, called him a personable and friendly division leader.
"I think of a man who was open to ideas," Sehman said. "I've been with other companies, and I've never found the amicable relationship that I found at High's. [Hiden] was always going into the stores, talking to managers and employees. People knew him and liked him. You always felt like you could go in and talk to him without repercussions."
The High's Dairy Store chain was sold in 1987 to Southland Corp., which owns the 7-Eleven convenience stores. With new owners, the atmosphere changed. Many longtime employees left, and within two years, Hiden retired. His personalized style of management, family and friends said, had gone out of fashion, although it was much appreciated by those who had worked for him.
"He was the type of person who would apologize to me when I was wrong," said Winoa Hiden, his wife of 52 years.
But after she handed him one too many "honey-do" lists, Hiden found a part-time job at the Marlow Sports store in Forestville, where he spent a decade indulging his passion for local high school and college athletics.
When one of his four grandchildren turned into a good high school and college pitcher, the proud grandfather became a faithful fan. When he was unable to attend games because of his diabetes, he looked forward to his grandson's postgame play-by-play reports.
Throughout his life, Hiden was even-tempered and mild-mannered, said his other son, Kevin Edward Hiden of Fulton, notwithstanding his competitive streak.
The elder Hiden was delighted when he got a chance to play with golf great Arnold Palmer during a pro-am outing and was equally delighted that Palmer was gracious and gentlemanly, Kevin Hiden said, traits that others recognized in Charlie Hiden.