Deb Spalding

The members of the Thurmont Community Ambulance Service, Inc. have officially opened a large facility for public event rentals and their own fundraising activities. This 28,600-square-foot venue was designed by Company member, Jim Rice. It is situated on 21.5 acres of ground, adjacent to the Thurmont Little League baseball fields in Thurmont, and accessed by Lawyer’s Lane off of Route #550.

The 10,000-square-foot main room seats eight hundred people spaciously, and can accommodate many more, standing. The stage is 46’x18’ and is accessed by stairs or a lift. Five ambulance bays, a storage bay, and a huge, and a fully-equipped (thanks to a gracious donor) kitchen complete the spacious facility. From the main room, there are several serving windows, including a self-serve soda fountain and two bar windows.

Future plans include the use of the grounds for festivals, weddings, and outdoor events. In the future, pavilions and amenities will be built on the grounds for that purpose. The water wheel from the former Cozy Restaurant will eventually be installed in some manner for all to enjoy.

The Company’s president, Lowman Keeney, said, “The construction took two-and-a-half years, and there were many road blocks. Our own membership did a tremendous amount of the work.” Donations and grants were heavily relied upon throughout the process. Funding was provided through Frederick County Bank, with Denise Guyton Boyer and Roxan Welch managing the allocation. “Thanks to all who volunteered to make the project come to life,” expressed Keeney.

Renters may either arrange that the Ambulance Company to cater their events or rent the facility and contract their choice of caterer. The Ambulance Company has a full liquor license for events they sponsor. The Ambulance Company has planned sportsman dinners, seafood feeds, bingos, and concerts inside the complex, beginning with an Open House for the community to tour the facility on February 11, 2017, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Upcoming events include a Turkey, Ham & Oyster Dinner on February 18, a Wing & Fried Shrimp Feed on March 25, a Pot Pie & Fried Chicken Feed on March 31, and the band, The Amish Outlaws, on November 11.

“We appreciate when citizens attend a function, because their participation comes back as a donation for the community to provide emergency services. The alternative is paying taxes for the services. We do have twelve-hour career staff from 6:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday,” said Keeney.


The spacious main room at the new Thurmont Community Ambulance Event Complex is shown.


Pictured is the grand, fully equipped kitchen at the new Thurmont Community Ambulance Event Complex.

Earl A. Rice, Jr. and Mary (Gene) Eugenia (Matthews) Rice were meant to be together. Some of the family members joke that their marriage was an arranged one. Earl and Gene first met in the backyard of the old Rouzer home in Thurmont, from which, the wall paper, now in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, came.  Their mothers—Jessie (Rouzer) Matthews and Helen (Creager) Rice—grew up as next-door neighbors, and were visiting their childhood homes with their first born on the same weekend, sometime in 1924—when someone snapped the above picture. It must have been love at first sight, because they grew up separated by a mountain range and thirty-five miles. They would see each other on occasion during these kinds of weekend visits and dated during their teens and early twenties. They mostly double-dated—the only way Jessie found acceptable—and have many fond memories of those times. Earl sometimes got to borrow his mother’s Lincoln Zephyr, so they got to date in style. Mostly, he came in the Model A that he and his lifelong friend, Henry Steiger, owned together.

After their courtship, they were engaged, and Earl was off to fight in WWII, training to be a bombardier on the B-29, the most advanced warplane of its time. Gene had earlier graduated from St. Joseph’s College, with a major in home economics and a minor in physics. Her first and only teaching job was at Emmitsburg High School, teaching physics. One of the classes she taught was engine basics.

Not being able to stand the idea of being separated, Earl and Gene decided to marry in California, where Earl was training at Victorville Army Air Base. Gene quit her job and got ready to travel west. Francis Matthews brought his daughter by train on the 2,500 mile trip to bring these two together for their seventy-plus year journey. In keeping with the good customs and scarcities at the time of war, Earl shared a room with Francis the night before the wedding, which he often jokingly asks, “How many men have done that?”  They were married in San Bernardino, California, on February 24, 1945. Francis, after giving away his and Jessie’s most precious daughter, travelled alone back to Emmitsburg.

Earl and Gene lived for a time in California, then onto various assignments, including Pecos, Texas, where these East Coast kids had to contend with such things as spiders and West Texas dust storms.   Earl and his crew had to travel separately on a troop train, while the wives followed with one of his fellow officer’s mother as a chaperone, another sign of a different time. Gene made some lifelong friends, with many of the wives demonstrating the love that has endeared her to all those around her.  Only a short time after their marriage, Earl and his crew were assigned to their B-29 in the South Pacific Island of Tinian. They had to travel on a troop ship to meet up with their aircraft.  Gene headed back home.

At the war’s end, they settled outside Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, where Earl worked at his family’s goldfish farm. In 1952, he decided to take his dedicated wife and two boys, Earl A. Rice III (Gus) and Robert “Scott” Rice, to Emmitsburg to work for Gene’s father, Francis, whose business was struggling at the time. In 1954, they were blessed with a daughter, Mary Ann Rice Clever. Earl’s efforts helped to save the business, for which Francis was always grateful. They have lived in Emmitsburg for the rest of their marriage.

Their time in Emmitsburg during the 50s, 60s, and 70s were dedicated to raising their children, instilling great values in them, and to running a business. As is the case for many marriages, theirs sometimes took work. These efforts were done with their sense of humor and knowing each other to the core. As an example, one time, when the family wanted to do something that Earl wasn’t supporting, Gene said, “Wait until it’s your father’s idea.” She was right.

Their years together blessed them with three children, nine grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. Those of us who have known them are likewise truly blessed.

Earl A. Rice, Jr. and Mary (Gene) Eugenia (Matthews) Rice first met in the backyard of the old Rouzer home in Thurmont…destiny bringing them together.


Statue of John Armstrong to be Erected

Emmitsburg’s famous gunsmith, John Armstrong, will have a statue erected to him at the Route 15 Visitor’s Center. Armstrong was the best-known of the local gunsmiths during the early 1800s. So distinct were their rifles that they came to be known as the Emmitsburg School of Gunsmiths.

Armstrong is most famous for the variation of the Kentucky long rifle. His rifles are highly sought-after collector’s items today. One collector wrote, “His pieces often draw comparisons to Swiss watches and Rolls Royce automobiles—classics that defy time.”

Gary Casteel, the sculptor who repaired the Doughboy statue when it was damaged, has been talking with town staff and Mayor Don Briggs about creating the sculpture. The catch has been trying to find an appropriate location for the statue to be displayed. The visitor’s center was finally selected. Briggs explained that it is considered part of Emmitsburg, since it is on the town’s water and sewer systems.

Town Planner Sue Cipperly sees this as a possible start to creating more heritage tourism sites in town. “We have these craftsmen here in town, and they should really be memorialized,” she said.

The statue could be dedicated as early as this spring.

In the Town Hall Notes item titled “Statue of John Armstrong will be erected” in the February issue of The Catoctin Banner. A number of possible future projects were discussed at the town meeting, and some of them got mixed up in the article. A statue of John Armstrong within the town is a future possibility, but is not imminent. The Route 15 Visitor’s Center was being considered for two things: a traveling display of Armstrong rifles and studio space for Casteel to work on a Civil War monument. Since the article was published, the state has decided to not allow these two things to happen in the visitor’s center. Sorry for the confusion.

James Rada, Jr.

Town Planning to Get Algae-Destroying System

The Town of Emmitsburg is considering installing a new system that uses cutting-edge technology to destroy algae in the water of Rainbow Lake. Bill Kramer, with Kershner Environmental Technologies, spoke to the commissioners about LG Sonic. The company’s algae-control technology actually destroys algae in the water. The company is located in the Netherlands and has been around since 1999. Although the technology is used in roughly 10,000 places around the world, in the United States, it has only been installed in New Jersey.

The technology uses ultrasound waves to destroy algae. It modulates the ultrasound frequency to target different types of algae to prevent them from rising to the surface to reach sunlight. Without sunlight, the algae die and sink to the bottom. Most of the systems use solar panels to power the technology, so there is little energy consumption.

“Getting algae out of the drinking water has a lot of positive benefits,” Kramer said.

The cost of the system for Rainbow Lake is $160,000 with about $15,000 annual in maintenance costs. It is projected to pay for itself in under two years. Savings would be seen in lower operating costs and more efficient water filtration.

Kramer said that the company and town staff would come up with benchmarks to determine the system’s success over a year. If the system didn’t meet those benchmarks, a portion of the funds would be refunded and the system would be removed.

The commissioners will continue discussing whether or not to move forward with this system during their February meeting.


Lions Collecting Winter Clothing

The Emmitsburg Mayor and Commissioners agreed to allow the Emmitsburg Lions Club to set up a collection box between the town gym and Emmitsburg Library. The Lions will be collecting scarves, hats, gloves, and coats, which will be donated to area schools to be given to students who need them. This project is part of the Emmitsburg Lions Club “Make A Difference Month.”



Town Makes Donation to Thurmont Food Bank

The Town of Thurmont donated $2,750 to the Thurmont Food Bank in December. This is in addition to the food donations raised at the annual Halloween in the Park event.

Pastor Sally Joyner Giffin told the commissioners that the food bank provides food to an average of 300 families monthly. In November, it provided food to around 400 families.


Thurmont’s Heroin Problem

Thurmont Police Chief Greg Eyler recently told the Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners that twenty-five people overdosed on heroin in Thurmont in 2016, and of that number, three of them died. The rest were saved when Narcan was administered. Commissioner Marty Burns called the number “staggering,” and pointed out that it didn’t include residents who overdosed outside of the town boundaries.


Commissioners Approve Civitan Club Inclusive Playground

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners approved the first phase of the first all-inclusive playground in Frederick County. It will replace the old playground at East End Park. The park has been in the planning and fundraising stages since July 2015. The new equipment will be paid for with a $25,000 Program Open Space grant that the town received and a $50,000 grant that the Thurmont Civitan Club obtained from Civitan International.

Chief Administrative Officer Jim Humerick said, “This will be a one-of-a-kind playground in the area. There’s nothing close by. This is going to be something that kids with all disabilities and non-disabilities can come and enjoy.”

The playground is not only designed for physically challenged children, but also children with emotional problems such as autism.

The overall cost of the playground is expected to be about $280,000 and to be completed in three phases. Playground Specialists in Thurmont is helping with the design and will be installing the new equipment.


Police Commission Openings Filled

The Thurmont mayor and commissioners selected from among four candidates to fill two open positions on the Thurmont Police Commission. Shawn Martiak and Greg Seymour will fill out the seven-person commission.

Community Park Winter Closing

The Thurmont mayor and commissioners voted to close Community Park during the winter. This was done to discourage vandalism, which had occurred at the back end of the park during the winter when few people use it. The front parking lot will still be open for families who want to use the playground on Frederick Road.

A few of the picnic tables will be moved closer to Frederick Road to be available for anyone who might want to use them. The commissioners also allowed town staff the leeway to open the park on warm days or to end the closing early if winter weather ends sooner than expected.



Mayor John Kinnaird

This past week, I have had the pleasure of participating in the Thurmont Middle School (TMS) Kindness Week Challenge. As students arrive for their day, I have been greeting them and wishing them a good day. I am happy to report that every one of the young people I have spoken to are excited to be at school and are, themselves, very polite and considerate of others. The goal of Kindness Week is to encourage an atmosphere of kindness and consideration among all students. It is obvious to me that these goals are being meet by all students and staff at TMS! My thanks to all of the students and staff for allowing me to play a small part in their day.

On January 21, Karen and I had the pleasure of attending the Thurmont Community Ambulance Company Awards Banquet, held in the newly completed Thurmont Ambulance Event Complex. The new building located off Lawyer’s Lane on Strafford Drive is a real gem of a facility. The main room is massive and can seat well over six hundred comfortably, with room for a dance floor. There is a large stage for presentations and concerts, as well as several drop-down video screens. The kitchen is a spacious room, with ample capacity for large banquets, weddings, or meetings. We would encourage anyone looking to rent a large venue to give the Event Complex a look! The banquet was prepared and served by members of the Rocky Ridge 4-H, and it was delicious. The Ambulance Company thanked the Scouts of Troop 270 and the Venturing Crew for installing the stone work on the exterior of the building and for planting over a hundred trees on the property. The Thurmont Ambulance ran a total of 1,258 calls in 2016; although I hope no one requires an ambulance, I can tell you from personal experience that you could not find better qualified, courteous, or professional ambulance personnel anywhere. I want to thank all the members of the Thurmont Community Ambulance Service for their hard work in getting this building built, and for their continued service to the residents of Thurmont and our neighbors in Frederick County.

Although we are still not through the worst part of winter, I want to mention a local project that will be worth visiting time and again once the weather warms up. Frederick County is currently making big improvements to the Roddy Road Park. These changes include moving the road away from Owens Creek in order to make pedestrian access to the stream much easier. There are new benches, picnic tables, walkways, dedicated parking, an infant playground, and even a new composting toilet. There are plans to develop a walking trail on the south side of Owens Creek that will wind along the embankment and up across the palisade. Of course, I can’t mention the park without saying something about the Roddy Road Covered Bridge. As everyone knows, the bridge was damaged twice in the last year and suffered major damages during the last incident. I am happy to say that Frederick County has stepped up and is repairing the bridge to a like-new condition. Many of the main frame timbers were damaged and have been replaced with identical woodwork. There are dozens of original supports being incorporated in the sides in the rebuilt bridge, and new steel beams will carry the weight of traffic under the wooden deck. The final touch will be a new metal roof and board siding. As I said, the County has stepped up on this project and it is obvious that they are intent on keeping the beloved Roddy Road Bridge in service. This landmark is a destination for many tourists and local residents, and the improvements will be a welcome addition. I want to also thank Fitzgerald Heavy Timber Construction for the fine craftsmanship they are investing in the rebuilding of the bridge.

As we get into February, I want to remind everyone that we will probably be seeing snow sometime this month and next. The Thurmont Police Department recently started a project called the Snow Team. Code Enforcement Officer Christy Wood has developed this project as a way to assist elderly and disabled residents with the removal of snow and ice from their sidewalks. The Snow Team is looking for teenage and adult volunteers to sign up to help clear snow for residents that are unable to do so themselves. Student volunteers can use the volunteer time as part of their community service requirements. Please stop by the Town Office or the Police Department to find out how you can help in this effort.

As always, I hope everyone has a safe and healthy month!



 Mayor Don Briggs

With the new year came the 133rd Vigilant Hose Company Banquet, an annual event Lib and I are always honored to attend. Over the course of the evening, I could not help but notice the parallel state of readiness and preparedness of the volunteer fire company and the teams that would compete in the upcoming College National Football Championship game. Both Clemson and Alabama and our fireman go through hours upon hours of rigorous training in preparation for yet unknown events and outcomes. Framing the comparison is not difficult. To no surprise, before a big football game, there is an elevated pitch in the locker room. Monday night players will go through a predictable series of steps in preparing for the game. Go to the stadium, tape up, suit up, loosen up, get a pre-game talk, and then go out on the field and play in the game. Looking across the Mother Seton auditorium, I knew that in a blink of an eye, the room could be emptied if a call came in and fire personnel were needed. Every firefighter and company support member would be gone. Gone to the fire house to suit up, but, unlike football, there would be no tape ups, loosening up or pre-game talk before going on to their “field”—on a call with no level field or fixed boundaries. A “field” of unknowns. If asked what it is like to be a volunteer fireman, knowing every day and every night that a call could come in, is only met with a shrug of the shoulders and a smile. Amazing people.

So what is the circle of care in Emmitsburg? One example is the first level of care: The volunteer Vigilant Hose Company responded to a call at a residence on East Main Street, where a fire would soon be extinguished, with limited damage and no personal injuries; but as a result, the family is now displaced. Hearing this, Sharon Hane and another concerned resident contacted Pastor John Greenstone, who manages the Emmitsburg Council of Churches fire fund, and told him of the family’s situation. The good Pastor concurred with the need and wrote a check. To accommodate the father’s schedule, one evening before Christmas, I gave him the check at the Community Center, where he was waiting to pick up his child from the town-sponsored after-school program. Volunteer Fire Company to concerned citizens to charitable resources and to town-sponsored childcare program is one way of how the circle of care works.

More “Green.” During the current drought conditions, predictably, the water levels at Rainbow Lake dropped. Unpredictably, though, was a natural consequence of algae levels that rose quickly, in part with more exposure to sunlight. Currently, the increased algae level necessitates more backwashing, which is expensive and exacerbates the water shortage by using and wasting water in the process. The town administration has proposed to the town council installing a solar powered “Advanced Ultrasonic Algae Control System.”

Soon there could be charging infrastructure for electric vehicles coming to Emmitsburg. From Shannon Moore, director of the Office of Sustainability: “As part of a settlement with the federal government, Volkswagen (VW) committed $2 billion over ten years to help advance the Electric Vehicle/Plug-In Electric Vehicle infrastructure in the United States. As a part of this settlement, VW is soliciting applications, due by January 16, 2017, from those interested in helping advance said infrastructure.  The COG (Washington Council of Governments) team is seeking project partners to receive the financial assistance to install chargers at host sites, either public or private. The team also is seeking partners to assist with education and outreach as well as vocational training.” To keep things moving, the town has expressed an interest in becoming a partner and possibly installing two charger stations. More to come on this.


Catoctin Banner Resolution 2017 Spotlight #1

Being a new contest, identifying our resolution contestants has been an adventure. We’re introducing our first contestant in this issue, and we will introduce another in our next issue. Then, we’ll give progress reports through the year to measure progress and capture their story.

Rachel Mohler is a thirty-nine-year-old artist and mother of three small children (four-and-a-half years, three years, and seven months). She moved to Sabillasville last November and has resolved to paint one tiny painting a day that is inspired by the view out the window of her new home. Each painting is created on a 2 1/2” x 3 1/2” piece of watercolor paper.

She has defined her objectives as: (1) to try and stay creative in the wake of small children, sleep deprivation, and all the chaos that comes with being a mom, wife, and business owner (she and her husband own a land surveying business); (2) to remind her to pause each day and take in the wonder that is nature and to be grateful for such a lovely place to live; (3) to watch the colors of the seasons change and to learn nature’s palette; and (4) to be open to the lessons this resolution has to teach and to have a record to share with her children when they get older.

Rachel has already begun her daily paintings as of January 1 (see samples below) and is looking forward to sharing her progress with the readers of The Catoctin Banner.

Visit to see the new Photo Galleries Section. You can view, download, or order photos from events The Catoctin Banner team members attend or report. If you specifically need a photographer for an event, please give us a call at 301-447-2804. We’ll determine the best way to provide that service during your event.

Seton Family Store in Emmitsburg will host a Valentine Sweetheart Basket Drawing for all purchasing customers from February 1-10, 2017. Basket will include wine, chocolates, a cork screw, and other goodies. View the advertisement on page 11 for more details.

Mother Seton School in Emmitsburg is hosting a Coach & Vera Bradley Bingo Night on Saturday, February 11, 2017. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m, with games starting at 7:00 p.m. Bingo Night also features specials, raffles, door prizes, and more. View the advertisement on page 37 for more information.