In the one-square-mile town of National Park, Edmond C. Read was the food fairy.

At the end of his workday at A&P Food Markets, Mr. Read would take home day-old bread and pastries and drop them off to neighbors who needed a little more food on the table.

He also would whip up various dishes and drive them down to the First United Methodist Church and the Republican Club.

Food was his "charity work," his brother Harold said. It was also his job.

Mr. Read, 86, a World War II veteran and longtime butcher, died of lung cancer on Sunday, Dec. 19, at home.

During the 34 years he worked as a butcher for A&P, he switched locations a few times. He also worked as a tax assessor in National Park for several years, his family said.

A hardworking man, Mr. Read never failed to feed his family or the rest of his community, his son said.

"We're blue-collar, but we always had food on the table," he said.

From oyster stew to roast pork, Mr. Read could make just about anything taste good, his family said.

Every September, he would start bringing seafood home, preparing it, and freezing it for his family's big Christmas Eve open house, where he fed about 50 people. There was seafood galore: fried oysters, baked clams, homemade crab cakes, and more.

On Election Day, Mr. Read would cook dozens of hot dogs and a giant batch of sauerkraut and take it to the Republican Club, where he often helped out with campaigns.

Mr. Read was born in Philadelphia and raised in National Park.

He attended Woodbury High School but in 1941 enlisted in the Navy, following in older brother Tom's footsteps. Their other brothers, Harold and Ellwood, joined them a few years later.

In the Navy, Mr. Read served as a ship's cook and had a great reputation for his culinary skills, Harold Read recalled.

"It was probably hereditary," his brother said. "My father was a good cook, too. He served in the British service."

The Read household was able to get a telephone during World War II because all the boys and some neighbors were in the service. A total of 19 young men from a two-block stretch of Lake Avenue were in the service, Harold Read said.

Edmond Read married Helen Maxwell, whom he met in seventh grade, in 1946, and the couple moved to Panama, where Mr. Read served for some months after World War II. He was honorably discharged in 1947 and returned to National Park.

After retiring in the 1980s, Mr. Read and his wife retired to Mystic Islands, N.J. They moved back to National Park in August.

In addition to his wife and brothers Harold and Ellwood, Mr. Read is survived by sons Edmond Jr. and William; eight grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren. His daughter, Jane McNeece, died in the mid-1980s.

A viewing will be held from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 23, at McGuinness Funeral Home, 34 Hunter St., Woodbury. The funeral will follow at 10:30. Interment will be in Eglington Cemetery, Clarksboro.

Contact staff writer Claudia Vargas at 856-779-3917 or cvargas@phillynews.com.