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by Deb Spalding

Thurmont will “Think Pink” and glow pink, too, as light bulbs around the town shine pink for the month of October. But, that’s not all. Thurmont’s Main Street is pleased to announce their inaugural “Think Pink” event!

Thurmont Main Street, in partnership with the Town of Thurmont, is joining in the campaign to help promote awareness of breast cancer and raise funds for research. Modeled after a Bel Air, Maryland, Main Street program that was started a few years ago called “Give Cancer the Pink Slip,” Thurmont’s program is based upon a huge partnership with businesses offering a discount on certain days, on certain items, or for a certain amount of time to shoppers in October. A percentage of sales during each business’ promotion will be donated to the Hurwitz Breast Cancer Fund for cancer research. The Hurwitz Breast Cancer Fund at Frederick Memorial Hospital was established in 1999 by Jeff and Patty Hurwitz, after Patty’s diagnosis of breast cancer. The Hurwitz Breast Cancer Fund is a fund of Frederick Memorial Hospital, a private, not-for-profit, community hospital with a 501 (c)(3) tax status. All contributions to the fund are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. Visit for more information.

Businesses will be involved by not only hosting a coupon campaign, but also by displaying pink ribbons, decorating pink, and letting their pink light bulbs glow. This is an event that most certainly contributes to the cause that affects each of us, a loved one, or someone we know. Town residents and business owners can pick up a pink light bulb at the town office during business hours, 8:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m.  The cost of the bulb is $1.00, with all proceeds also going to the Hurwitz Breast Cancer Fund.  On Wednesday, October 1, 2014, businesses and homes will officially light up the town with pink lights at 8:00 p.m.  Everyone is asked to have their pink lights turned on each night during the month of October, from 8:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.

Town of Thurmont offices and buildings will also be illuminated with pink floodlights during the month, and Town Staff will be sporting pink shirts every Friday.

As Thurmont residents and business owners paint the town pink from all ends in October, there are some additional improvements to downtown on Main Street taking place. Jim Humerick, Thurmont’s Chief Administrative Officer, said, “We have a lot going on. In about five or six months, downtown will look completely different.”  Some of the improvements on the Main Street corridor are taking place because of grants that Thurmont’s Main Street Manager, Vickie Grinder, obtained to fund improvements, including benches, bike racks, and trash receptacles.

A Downtown Revitalization Project that includes sidewalk replacements is well under way. New decorative street lamps, benches, trash cans, bike racks, and parking meters posts will be installed.

After October’s dazzle of pink and the colors of autumn, think forward to November for the Thurmont Fall Gallery Stroll on Friday, November 7, 2014, from 6:00-8:30 p.m.  Local artists, entertainment, wineries, and food will entertain, as attendees are able to witness the recent improvements close at hand. Artist, Rebecca Pearl, will unveil her latest Thurmont print; and artist, Yemi, will also be at the Stroll.

Think Pink

The Thurmont Town staff are shown wearing their pink apparel in preparation for their Think Pink fundraiser throughout October. Pictured from left are: (front row) Tracy Schur, Wanda Stottlemyer, Debbie Ecker, Becky Long; (back row) Brad Weddle, Jim Humerick, John Kinnaird, Lori Kaas, Gary Hodges, and Lee Hanvey.


by Joan Fry

Pastor Commings retiresPastor Janet I. Comings will retire from the ministry on October 31, 2014.  Everyone is invited to her official retirement service at St. John’s United Church of Christ in Sabillasville, Maryland, on October 19, 2014, at 11:15 a.m. Associate Conference Minister, Marie Bacchiocchi, will preside. Pastor Comings will be preaching. Her last Sunday to preach at St. John’s will be October 26, 2014. She is also pastor at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Sabillasville.

Pastor Comings was installed at St. John’s on September 16, 2001. She has always been reliable, conscientious, and willing to go the extra mile for regular members and attenders of both churches, as well as local families who were in need of her specialized assistance. Well-known in the community, she could be seen putting up flyers at local businesses for church-related activities and going door-to-door with information concerning St. John’s and St. Mark’s events.

Her passion is cooking. She was instrumental in cooking suppers once a month for Hope Alive in Sabillasville and the homeless shelter in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, with the help of church members.

She has always been diligent concerning her pastoral duties, providing exciting programs for the youth and Christian social opportunities for the community, such as monthly senior lunches at St. Mark’s, free bingo evenings at St. John’s with free supper and prizes, Vacation Bible School for the community, and bi-monthly joint Bible study.  These events were open to everyone.

On Saturday, October 25, 2014, there will be a joint sendoff gathering for those who wish to attend. Drop by St. John’s Parish Hall in Sabillasville (across from the church) anytime between 3:00-6:00 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.

Pastor Comings will be greatly missed.








Pastor Janet I. Comings, who was installed at St. John’s United Church of Christ in 2001, will be retiring from the ministry on October 31, 2014.

by James Rada, Jr.

As the general election in November approaches, the Catoctin Banner asked candidates for the some of the offices in Frederick County to talk to our readers. This is the fifth in the series as the candidates for the Frederick County Sheriff weigh in.

Chuck Jenkins (R)


Why are you running for county sheriff?

Frederick County is my lifelong home. I have loved serving this county and its citizens for eight years as sheriff and a total of twenty-four years under three previous sheriffs. It has been an honor and a privilege to lead and manage an outstanding law enforcement agency after having been a part of building the same agency. I know the importance of being a sheriff that is accessible and responsive to the people, and I understand the complex public safety issues facing our community. It’s my goal to ensure that Frederick County remains a safe place to live and that we maintain our excellent quality of life.


What are the biggest issues that you see concerning the north end of Frederick County?

The biggest problem facing the northern end of Frederick County is the same problem faced in the other areas throughout Frederick County. It is the surge in heroin use and the increase in crimes associated with illegal drug activity such as thefts and, to a lesser degree, burglaries. Thefts from vehicles and destruction-of-property incidents are crimes of opportunity that are also committed throughout other regions of the county.


How can you as sheriff ensure a smooth working relationship with the Thurmont Police?

We currently enjoy a very good and cooperative working relationship with the Thurmont Police Department, and I can ensure that continues through my good relationships with Chief Greg Eyler, the Mayor of Thurmont, and the town commissioners. In fact, I spend a quite a bit of my personal time in Thurmont at activities with my family, and the community knows who I am. A great example of the ongoing cooperation was the 2012 G8 Summit, and the fact that we routinely back Thurmont Police Department on calls for service, and assist in any way we can when requested.


With the bulk of the county’s population nearer Frederick, how can you ensure that sheriff’s deputies can adequately cover areas in the north end of the county?

We are constantly reviewing our patrol staffing and deployment matrix to assure we have our patrol areas covered as effectively as possible with the appropriate manpower. We review call volume in relationship to local population in any given geographical area to determine patrol staffing. Our crime mapping of hotspots allows deputies to constantly know in real time where problem areas are located, and provide the increased presence when needed or requested. We serve the Town of Emmitsburg with our Resident Deputy Program that provides for additional presence and coverage in northern Frederick County. The Sheriff’s Office also provides very effective traffic enforcement efforts on northern county roads, keeping our roadways as safe as possible.


What can the sheriff’s department do to improve the safety in the north end of the county?

Frederick County is a very safe county to live in, with a crime rate of about one-half of the national average per capita (or 1000 persons). Currently, the Sheriff’s Office is attacking the heroin crisis with a multi-faceted approach that includes strong and effective enforcement and interdiction efforts, coupled with awareness and educational initiatives in the form of public meetings in our schools and communities. Those meetings include presentations from Frederick County Public Schools, the health department, the States Attorney’s Office, and the Board of County Commissioners in a collaborative effort. I am confident that our efforts in enforcement and awareness will have an impact on the heroin surge and the overall illegal drug problem, and then we will see an overall reduction is criminal activity.


Karl Bickel (D)


Why are you running for county sheriff?

I am running for Sheriff because I could not stand by and watch another Frederick County child die knowing I could do something to prevent it. With over 40 years of experience in law enforcement, and the former Chief Deputy of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, I bring the practical experience, education and training that the office of sheriff needs to stop the detention center suicides, deaths of unarmed civilians at the hand of our deputies, and to turn the tide of heroin-related deaths. Your vote for me is a vote for a Sheriff that puts well-trained, motivated officers on the roads and streets prepared to deal with our growing and diverse community and the problems it faces.


What are the biggest issues that you see concerning the north end of Frederick County?

The critical issue in the region is the heroin epidemic that was ignored by the current sheriff as it emerged, until record numbers of people started dying from overdoses: 10 deaths in 2012, 21 in 2012, and 11 in the first three months of 2014. As a result, the sheriff’s office is years behind in dealing with the problem and the associated 23 percent rise in serious crime.

The first thing to do is save lives by sending all deputies to Narcan training and then equipping them with it. Narcan is a drug that is easily administered and reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, whether heroin or a legal prescription drug. It is unconscionable that the Sheriff is just now starting to talk about training our deputies in Narcan.

The next step is to get the addicted into treatment and put together a robust community education and awareness program. We must get the entire community involved. Vigorous enforcement measures must be taken to keep the illicit drugs out of the community and prevent, mitigate, and respond to the crime associated with heroin abuse. This will be accomplished by building and strengthening partnerships between the sheriff’s office, Thurmont police, state police, and federal authorities, as well as community stakeholders.


How can you as sheriff ensure a smooth working relationship with the Thurmont Police?

As your Sheriff, I anticipate a very smooth working relationship with the Thurmont Police department, having worked successfully with Chief Eyler in the past. In addition, we both know the value of collaborative partnerships in addressing crime and public-order problems. As your Sheriff, the centerpiece to our operational philosophy will be problem solving through the use of collaborative partnerships.

Strong partnerships among local agencies and community stakeholders attracts federal, state, and private foundation funding. As your Sheriff, we will no longer turn away outside funds made available to improve Frederick County. Securing non-county funding is good for all departments and the taxpayers. Working together, the Sheriff’s Office and the Thurmont Police Department can enhance operations and develop best practices for other departments to emulate.


With the bulk of the county’s population nearer Frederick, how can you ensure that sheriff’s deputies can adequately cover areas in the north end of the county?

It’s all about how the Sheriff manages the resources under his command. Right now, the sheriff’s

office is top heavy in its command structure and its use of specialized units. A reexamination of the use of personnel resources with an anticipated redeployment of resources – particularly personnel resources – would enhance coverage in the north county.

As your Sheriff, I would have a command staff person with geographic responsibility for the north county. Their responsibility would include deployment issues, partnering with allied agencies, and working with community stakeholders to identify and respond to specific concerns and problems within the north county. Furthermore, I plan to improve the use of technology throughout the Sheriff’s Office in an effort to enhance services and free up additional resources that can be redeployed to the north county area.


What can the sheriff’s department do to improve the safety in the north end of the county?

Introducing an electronic filing system for minor crimes and printing of officer reports online will improve the safety and security of the north end of the county. This will free up valuable personnel resources to focus on covering areas of the county that have historically been under staffed. Rebuilding the trust among communities and stakeholders will empower members of the community to assist in identifying trends and emerging issues before they become full blown issues; putting “community” back into community policing!

Finally, we should strengthen the collaborative relationship between the Sheriff and its partners in the Thurmont police and north county stakeholders to better address the heroin epidemic and rise in serious crime. The use of proven technology will help with early detection of emerging problems and developing the best response to improve the safety and wellbeing of all citizens.

Since 1979, the Canaries, a group of senior citizens in the Catoctin area who love singing, have been performing choral concerts near and far.


left)Members of the Canaries Singing Group are pictured finishing a performance in the 1980s.


The group made history in 1991 when they performed at the White House. Patt Troxell has served as the group’s director for many years. “It’s so refreshing to watch the people interact with us. It’s just amazing. You’ll see them tap their foot and sing along,” said Troxell. The Canaries perform in nursing homes, senior centers, assisted living facilities, parties, and special occasions.

If you like to sing, you are welcome to participate. “We’re in desperate need of canaries. Did you know it’s only the male canary who sings? We need males too,” Troxell added.

Practice is held on Mondays, September through May, from 12:45-1:30 p.m. at the Thurmont Senior Center, located at 806 East Main Street in Thurmont. Call 301-271-7911 for more information.

(below) The Canaries are pictured at the White House in 1991.

canaries white house

Lewistown Elementary School fourth grader, Nik Contreras, is passionate about the NBA. That’s not unique until you realize it’s not the National Basketball Association but rather the National Bison Association that has sparked Nik’s curiosity!

According to Principal Shirley Olsen, Nik and his parents traveled to the Michigan Bison Bash, a one-day educational meeting. Nik attended lectures on the outlook of the bison industry, food processing, and bison veterinary medicine. Nine-year-old Nik is a junior member of the NBA, and the first junior member of the Eastern Bison Association. On September 11, 2014, Nik headed to the Capitol, with other NBA members, to meet with members of Congress, the Senate, and the US Department of Agriculture.

Nik’s mother, Cindy Burnsteel, is a division director at the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. She says that through the NBA, Nik has had many opportunities to visit bison herds and meet with the herd managers one-on-one. Nik has visited seven bison ranches, including five privately owned ranches and two public herds: Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake and Custer State Park bison. “NBA members and the herd managers have treated him as an equal and answered any questions he had,” she said. Nik hasn’t met a bison producer who doesn’t want to talk to him about bison. Nik says, “Eat bison!”

Principal Olsen states that Nik’s learning, when combined with the work he does in the classroom, will prepare him to be college and career ready.

“His experiences before our country’s legislators and USDA staff with NBA members will enrich his classmates’ learning,” Olsen adds.

lewistown elementary student - meets congress






Nik is shown at the train station in downtown Frederick the morning he left to meet with legislator and USDA members.

Mother Seton School announces the appointment of Sister Joan Corcoran, D.C. as the school’s assistant principal. The position had been previously held by Mr. Gordon Love before his retirement in 2012. “I’m very happy to be joining the school team,” Sr. Joan said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Sr. Brenda, the teachers, staff, and parents in offering our children a quality, faith-based education.”

Sr. Joan was born and raised in Syracuse, New York, as one of seven children. A product of Catholic education, she went on to receive a B.A. in Business Administration from SUNY at Fredonia. Before joining the Daughters of Charity in 1982, she worked in the corporate world, but a desire to teach led her to change her career focus. She received a Master’s degree in Elementary Education from the College of St. Rose in Albany, New York, and embarked on a ten-year teaching career. In addition to teaching at the grade-school level, she worked in parish ministry and served in Brooklyn, New York, helping adults earn their GED.

Sr. Joan has extensive experience as a vice principal and principal, leading schools in New York and Delaware. Last September, she was assigned to the Seton Center in Emmitsburg, which provides supportive assistance to low-income families. She will continue to volunteer her time there in a limited capacity.

by James Rada, Jr.

DSC_1127Mrs. Herrmann, Colby Runge, Skyler Holman, Michaela Stull, and Taylor Garner dip ice cream during the opening ceremonies of the Show.

Jared White (pictured center) officiated, as Logan Willard and Dustin Hahn participated in the log sawing contest on Sunday.

Craft entries at the Community Show.

Kathy Foster with Thurmont Child Care is shown at her business booth on Friday evening.

DSC_1280Josie Kaas is shown with her Siamese cat, Ben, during the pet show on Saturday.

DSC_1173Rodman Myers served as Master of Ceremonies during the opening ceremonies of the Show.

Karen McAfee spent a long day on September 5, 2014, at Catoctin High School in Thurmont. During the morning, she helped check-in youth department entries for the 58th Annual Thurmont and Emmitsburg Community Show. The entries needed to be sorted by class and displayed.

At noon, her role became that of a judge, walking around the gymnasium and judging the entries.

After that, she continued helping get things ready for the opening of the show. By 7:00 p.m., as the halls filled up with people, she looked around with satisfaction at a job well done.

“I love the people here,” McAfee said. “I was born and raised in Thurmont, and I’ve been coming to the Community Show since I was born. It’s a big, family show.”

During the Community Show’s opening exercises on Friday evening, Tommy Grunwell, the former morning show host of WFMD, was the keynote speaker.

“I was walking around a little while ago, and I could see how much effort goes into this,” Grunwell said.

DSC_1321With the approaching bicentennial of the Battle of Fort McHenry and the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” much of Grunwell’s comments focused on the American flag and the National Anthem.

Dr. Theresa Alban, superintendent of Frederick County Public Schools, also made a few remarks when she was introduced.

“The pride in this community is evident in so many ways,” stated Alban.

For more than half a century, the Thurmont and Emmitsburg Community Show has been highlighting the role of agriculture in northern Frederick County and spotlighting the talents of area residents. More than $12,000 in prizes were awarded to the hundreds of exhibitors.

The weekend’s events featured livestock auctions, a petting zoo, music, pony rides, pet show, horseshow pitching contest, log sawing contest, baked goods auction, decorated animal contest, and more.

IMG_7377Members of the Community Show also said goodbye to one of their own this year. The contributions of Jean Myers could be seen throughout the weekend. Myers had worked with her husband, Rodman, for years organizing each year’s show, including this year’s. She passed away at the end of June.

by Johnny Kempisty

comm show ambassadorsThe Catoctin FFA Chapter was proudly involved in the 58th Annual Thurmont & Emmitsburg Community Show.    The Catoctin FFA Chapter Secretary, Megan Millison, was selected as the FFA Ambassador for the Community Show for 2014.  The FFA Ambassador represents the Chapter at the Community Show, attends show events, and hands out awards.   It is an honor to be selected for the position. Candidates must go through a series of interviews and are selected from a panel of Community Members.

The FFA Chapter also raised money for their National Convention trip in late October to Louisville, Kentucky. Earlier this year, the Catoctin FFA Chapter attended the Maryland State FFA Convention, held at the University of Maryland in June. There, they competed in Career Development Event (CDE) competitions, in which members demonstrate their knowledge and skills in agricultural applications in a wide variety of subjects. The Catoctin FFA Chapter had two teams that placed first, and will be going on to compete at the National FFA Convention. Those teams were the Ag Sales Team: Megan Millison, Ashley McAfee, Stephanie Kennedy, and John Kempisty; and the Parliamentary Procedure team: Dusty Hahn, Kayla Umbel, Justin McAfee, Morgan Moreland, Hannah Barth, and Kayleigh Best. Also, the livestock judging team that competed at the Howard County fair placed first and will also be going to the National Convention. The livestock judging team included Aislinn Latham, Brietta Latham, Margo Sweeney, and Ashley Ridenhour. Attending the National Convention to receive their American degrees are members, Elizabeth Shriver and Daniel Myers. Delegates, Nicole Milbourne and Jacob Shriver, will also be traveling with the teams to Nationals.

To help raise money for the trip, the Chapter sold popcorn, cow-pie bingo tickets, Boscov discount coupons, and raffle tickets to win a farm scene painting by local artist Robin Shire during the Community Show.

To further benefit the National FFA Trip, the Catoctin FFA Chapter will be hosting a Crab Cake Dinner on October 17, 2014, from 4:30-7:00 p.m. at the Emmitsburg Fire Hall. Tickets are $15.00 a person and include two crab cakes, baked potato, green beans, coleslaw, roll, and dessert. For tickets, contact Amy Jo Poffenberger at 301-676-6732 or Sandy Umbel at 240-285-6695. The Chapter will also be parking cars at Colorfest on October 11-12, 2014, at the Co-op feed store in Thurmont to raise money for the Chapter and their trip to Nationals. Additionally, the Catoctin FFA Chapter will be running a food booth at Brookfield Pumpkins on September 27-28 and October 4-5, 2014. Come out and support your local FFA Chapter.

Robert Wilhide Went Hunting and Never Returned

by James Rada, Jr.

Robert Wilhide woke up early on Saturday, September 20, 1924, and it wasn’t even a school day. It was his hunting day, though. He dressed, ate breakfast, and told his parents that he would be home later that afternoon. Then he grabbed up his rifle and headed into the mountains to hunt squirrels.

When the fourteen-year-old boy hadn’t returned by late afternoon, his parents began to worry. They gathered a group of friends and neighbors and started out to try and search for him. Unbeknownst to them, among the searchers was a man who may already have known that young Robert was dead.

The search on Saturday evening ended unsuccessfully after a few hours due to darkness.

On Sunday morning, the Wilhides gathered about thirty family and friends and resumed the search for Robert. However, the search party was hampered in its efforts by heavy fog and rain. And another day passed with no sign of Robert.

“The boy’s parents are almost frantic over his disappearance and many false rumors concerning the boy’s alleged reappearing have been going around in Thurmont,” the Frederick News reported.

The search resumed Monday morning, and the search party had grown to around one-hundred people.

On Monday afternoon, the search moved further west, higher into the Catoctin Mountains. Maurice Stimmel, Robert’s uncle, followed his two dogs as they seemed to catch a scent that led them toward underbrush about two-hundred feet off the main road.

“He was found lying on a pile of brush, face down, with his head resting on his arm and a gun shot wound just below the heart. His gun with an empty shell in it was found about fifty feet from the body,” the Catoctin Clarion reported.

The gun was found lying on the other side of a log that was more than six inches in diameter. On the other side of the log and a few feet away was a nest of yellowjackets. In addition, the heel of Robert’s left hand had been shot away.

“It is surmised that he walked into the nest of bees and in the excitement of getting beyond their reach he stumbled and the gun slipped from his shoulder; although still holding on to the muzzle, the hammer struck the log and exploded the shell,” according to the Clarion.

After he had been shot, the guess was that he may have started for the road, hoping that he could flag down help. Covering only about a quarter of the distance, he had collapsed and died.

Dr. M.A. Birely was brought in to examine the body. He said that Robert had been dead about forty-eight hours. This may have given the Wilhides some peace, since they would have realized that Robert was most certainly dead before they even realized he was missing.

Robert’s body was taken to M. L. Creager and Son Funeral Home, where it was prepared for burial.

On Tuesday, September 23, Judge R. E. Cadow summoned an inquest jury, which met in the Wilhide’s home. After hearing the evidence and testimony, the jury returned a verdict of “accidental death,” according to the Clarion.

Robert was buried in Weller’s Cemetery on September 24. Nearly one hundred of his classmates attended the funeral.

Though it seemed that the story ended here, it didn’t. Whether from guilt or suspicion, William Wilhide continued questioning the circumstances of his son’s death. Had Robert gone hunting alone? Was his death truly accidental? He got the state’s attorney, William Storm, to open an investigation.

The investigation began circling around conflicting statements made by one of the searchers, Osba McAfee, a World War I Veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Though McAfee denied it, Robert apparently told some friends that McAfee had invited him to go hunting.

The other suspicion about McAfee came during the search. “When searchers approached the spot where the body was discovered, it was said that McAfee would tell them he had searched that locality and that the body was not there,” the Frederick News reported.

It may have been McAfee’s denials of shooting the boy before suspicion had even centered on him that caused the investigation. Ultimately, McAfee was taken into custody and questioned for two days before being released.

The final decision was that Robert had died from an accidental self-inflicted shot, as had first been determined, and he was finally laid to rest.

by Carie Stafford

On Sunday, August 24, 2014, Venturing Crew 270 was walking down Main Street in Thurmont when the sound of crunching metal was heard from the Thurmont Carnival Grounds.

Upon arriving, the Venturing Crew found one vehicle on its side and another next to it with front end damage.  There were several injured people outside and inside the two vehicles:  thirteen patients and eight Venturing Crew members. Venturing Crew 270 relied upon their first aid training and went about helping the people that were injured the best they could, using only the supplies they had in their first aid kit.

Kelsey Stafford, President of the Venturing Crew, took charge and instructed crew member Chris Beard to call 911.  Making sure the scene was safe for the group to advance, they went about triaging, bandaging, holding C-spine traction, and assisting the walking wounded safely away from the area of the crash until EMS (Emergency Medical Services) arrived.

This was the scenario of an actual MCI (Mass Casualty Incident) drill. Trainings such as these are needed for EMS personnel to practice their skills like they would in a real emergency situation. “Train like you fight and it becomes second nature when the real world happens,” stated Jamie Drawbaugh of MFRI (Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute).

Since the inception of Venturing Crew 270 in 2007, there had not been an MCI drill in Thurmont. This training not only helps the Venturing Crew with their training requirements, but it assists the EMS departments with essential training.

The successful coordination and planning of this recent MCI drill goes to Becky Ott, EMT at Thurmont Ambulance Company 30. As a trainer, she has taught Venturing Crew 270 Wilderness First Aid and recently reviewed the new Jump Start Triage system. Putting those trainings together, the Venturing Crew was able to achieve positive comments, such as “exceptional job,”  “calm and in control,” and “great communication and discipline” from evaluators and emergency medical and fire personnel present at the drill.

During the drill, each area, Venturing Crew 270, Emergency Medical Services and Fire Services were assigned evaluators.  The object of the evaluators was not to criticize but to take note of things that could have been done better or smoother. It was a “good learning experience for everyone,” stated Assistant Fire Chief, Charlie Brown, of the Thurmont Guardian Hose Company 10.

Assistant Fire Chief Brown had no idea what Venturing Crew 270 was all about. “I am impressed with the amount of knowledge the Venturing Crew had about first aid, and I am pleased to see the younger generation involved in the EMS field.”

Jamie Drawbaugh of MFRI and an evaluator of the fire side of the drill stated, “I was very impressed with the extent of care the Venturing Crew did with the limited amount of experience they have.”  “It was a good drill, well organized, and a learning experience for all involved. Great job.”

Venturing Crew 270 would like to thank all those involved in making this MCI drill a success:

Thurmont Ambulance Company 30, The Guardian Hose Company 10, Emmitsburg Ambulance Company 26, and Graceham Fire Department Company 18. Dispatchers: Tracy German of Frederick Co. 911 and Jeremy Heflin and Kristy Dutrow, Supervisors at the Frederick Co. 911 call center. Evaluators: Master Firefighter/Paramedic Chuck Farkas, Montgomery County; Ann Messner, retired Chief of Emmitsburg Ambulance Company 26; Jamie Drawbaugh, MFRI; and Kiona Black, Department of Fire and Rescue in Frederick Company. Moulage artists: Sarah Pysell, EMT-P Thurmont Ambulance Company 30, and Ann Messner. Volunteer patients were EMS personnel, family members, and friends.

Venturers participating in the drill were: Chris Beard, Trevor Bostian, Keegan Coolidge, Jacob Dumbroski, Alex Mayhew, Jared Snyder, Devin Stafford, and Kelsey Stafford

Venturing is a program for young men and women, 14 (or 13 and graduated the 8th grade) through 20 years of age. For more information, please see CREW270.COM or email

(right) Pictured from left are: Kelsey Stafford, President Venturing Crew 270; Keegan Coolidge (standing), Boy Scout Troop 270; Leo Coolidge, victim; Rose Latini, EMS Incident Commander; Chris Beard, Venturing Crew 270; Emily Coyle, victim (back boarded).

(left) Emmitsburg Ambulance Company 26 crew John and Beth Ruppell, EMT-B, providing a secondary assesment on a car crash victim with c-spine traction held by Jared Snyder, Ventruing Crew 270, and Devin Stafford, Venturing Crew 270, assisting with the back board to package the patient.

by Jim Houck, Jr.

Edwin Valentine Superczynski

Fire Control Missile Technician 2nd Class (FTM2)

Ed SuperEd was born March 19, 1941, in Buffalo, New York, to Emily and Edwin A. Superczynski. Two younger sisters, Linda Susan and Catherine, completed the Superczynski family. The family resided on the East side of Buffalo in a Polish Community where Ed started grammar school at a Catholic School called Transfiguration, from grade one through eight; he graduated from Transfiguration Grammar School in 1954. While in grammar school, Ed said his class went on a camping trip to Allegheny State Park. The thing that stands out in his mind about that experience is that he and the other kids had a race to see who could eat the most. Ed ate sixteen ears of corn on the cob and, when he got home, spent several hours in the bathroom.

He also had a job while in grammar school that he kept hidden from his dad: pin setting at the local bowling alley. His dad was against Ed working there due to the risk of getting hit by a flying pin or a ball thrown by one of the drunken bowlers. Ed also helped a farmer at a local farmers market until he discovered the farmer expected him to work for literally nothing. After loading the farmer’s truck and riding with him to the farm and then unloading the truck, Ed was paid the sum of one quarter of a dollar for his efforts, so he didn’t look for work there anymore.

Ed spent his next four years at Hutchinson Central Technical High School, which was basically a technical school. He studied electrical engineering, where he helped maintain and build radios. He dabbled in the arts, like drawing and painting. I saw some of the paintings he has done, and they are really good.

Ed graduated from high school in 1958. Ed’s hobbies were fishing and hunting. He said he and his father hunted rabbits and pheasants, and pretty much whatever was in season at the time. They ate what they killed, because his mother and grandmother would cook great meals from the game. But, Ed preferred fishing. He enjoyed fly fishing; he even tied his own flies and got pretty good at it.

Ed worked at a few jobs while in high school. He got a job at a local five and dime store as a stock boy. In his junior year, he worked at a classy downtown Buffalo restaurant, McDoels, as a busboy for about a year and a half.

Ed told me he wasn’t all that interested in driving a vehicle, so he was eighteen before he took the test for his driver’s license. Having no vehicle of his own, he drove his father’s car. After he got his driver’s license, Ed went to work for Western Electric—a part of Bell Atlantic—as a cable repairman. This was around 1960.

Ed had a friend who was in the U.S. Navy who told him stories about going out to sea and seeing exotic places. Being a fisherman, Ed thought, “Oh boy, that’s for me! I could fish off the boat.” Well that didn’t quite work out, but was the main reason he joined the Navy in 1961. He signed up for four years and reported to boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Base. Ed had two weekends he could take liberty: the first one he took in Milwaukee, the second in Chicago. He said that was pretty much his first opportunity to see different places.

After boot camp, he went to Fire Control Technician School in Bainbridge, Maryland, which was his first indoctrination to Maryland. Ed got off the train in Perryville, Maryland, and then headed to the naval base for A School to learn what it meant to be a Fire Control Technician. Most of what he learned was computer stuff. That’s where they thought he could fit in and, at that time, there were analog computers.

After Ed finished A School, he went to C School for a specific computer system that he had to be familiar with. Ed finished C School and was assigned to the USS Albany CG10, a ship that was being built. There were several other Albany’s for various purposes. But after they modified the USS Albany CG10, it was one of the first all-missile cruisers and the largest missile carrier in the world at that time. Ed said that when he got on the ship, he had to learn their computer system. The ship’s computer enabled you to get information from the search radars and guidance radars so that when there were planes, you could guide the missiles to bring them down.

The USS Albany was eventually commissioned, so Ed was a plank owner on that ship. Once commissioned, it was allowed to do some serious type tours and some longer cruises. While he was on board that kind of ship, they had different contractors come on board to show them how to work things and how to repair the computers. Eventually—and it took a couple of years—they came up with a digital computer that was so huge it took up a couple of walls on the ship. Ed now thinks that you could probably get more memory out of a small home computer these days than that huge computer. Ed became acquainted with the various contractors that came on board and, eventually, went to work for one of them when he got out of the Navy. Ed was discharged from the Navy in February of 1966 and returned to Buffalo, New York.

Ed met Patricia Lewdowski in Buffalo in 1962 on one of his furloughs home. He got to see her occasionally for dates when one of his Navy buddies would drive them home on a short when they had leave. They got married in July 27, 1963. He and Pat had a one-week honeymoon, because Ed had to leave on a cruise in early August 1963. They didn’t see each other until June 1964 at Hampton Roads, Virginia, and only for quick visits, since, while she was there, Ed had to go on some short cruises that prevented them from seeing much of each other.

Pat was supposed to be in Hampton Roads until his tour of duty was over. The ship was supposed to go into dry dock to get some stuff done to it, and it was to be there for quite a while. The Navy changed the plans. The ship didn’t go into dry dock, so Ed was sent on other cruises.

Ed and Pat’s son, Denis, was born on April 28, 1965. Ed left on a cruise in May of 1965, so he only got to see his son for a couple of weeks. Pat and son, Denis, returned to Buffalo in June 1965. Ed was to get out in October 1965, but he got extended because they didn’t have enough people trained in his rate, so they took off on a cruise. While on the extended cruise, Ed tried to figure out how he was going to transport the things he had bought at different ports of call to his home. He had purchased things like china, silver, a china cupboard, and various other things while in Amsterdam, Switzerland, and other ports. He needed to get these things back home, and it turned out that when he got extended, he could carry those things home with him. He was grateful to the Navy for that. Ed, after being extended, finally mustered out in February 1966, and returned to Pat in Buffalo.

Ed and Pat had a daughter, Cheryl, born in 1968. Ed was working for Bell Aerospace as a technician, just outside of Buffalo, and some of the work he did there was for space rockets and lunar excursion vehicles. Ed said he enjoyed working, but he had to wait thirty days to join the union. When he was there his thirty days, he joined the union and, shortly after, they called a strike. Ed was walking the picket line with his placard, drinking coffee, and eating doughnuts with everyone else. Finally, the company and union got together and they got their nickel raise. Ed was struggling to pay the rent and needed to buy a new stove and refrigerator. He had lost so muchuntil the strike was called off; it was hard to recuperate from the loss.

Ed had just gotten back to work when one of the other local unions at the plant called strike and they had to respect their picket lines, so he was out of a job again. Ed was looking for a job and happened to spot an ad in the paper about a place taking interviews at a downtown hotel, so he went over for the interview and talked with them. They knew him from the USS Albany because they were the engineers that he dealt with. He got a job through them and moved, by himself, to Maryland in 1966 to see how things were in the area. He stayed at a Howard Johnson Hotel and all expenses were paid by the company. Things were working out really well.

Ed saw how things were. He went home and he and Pat packed all their stuff and sold the stove and refrigerator, and drove to Maryland. Just prior to getting that job, Ed had bought his first vehicle, a 1966 Volkswagen Bug. Ed’s father-in-law drove his car back with them because they had a lot of stuff to unload when they arrived at their apartment in Aspen Hill, near Silver Spring, Maryland. Their apartment was only three blocks away from the company he was going to work for. The company sent Ed to Boston to work on the ship he was on and he ran tests on the equipment they were rebuilding. He was in Boston for about nine months. While there, Ed made several trips back to the apartment and his family in Maryland. He and Pat eventually bought a house in Rockville, Maryland. That is when Ed moved Pat and the kids to just outside of Boston in a little village named Winchester. The apartment they lived in was very modern, but the electric kept going out and things were weird. The telephone still had three or four party lines. They needed some appliances, so they rented a washer by telephone. When the washer was delivered, it was one with the roller wringers on it. Ed said the first winter there they had thirty-six inches of snow and everything was shut down. Their neighbor had a Bunsen burner and that is how they heated their infant daughter’s bottle of milk. Ed was with the Vetro Company for twenty-six years, and for his service at twenty-five years, they gave him a beautiful grandfather clock that stands in his dining room. The company lost their contract and Ed was out of a job after twenty-six years with them.

Ed retired in 2010 and he and Pat and their daughter, Cheryl, and granddaughter, reside at a house they bought in 2005 in Thurmont, Maryland. Ed belongs to AMVETS Post 7 in Thurmont and is 1st Vice Commander. Pat joined the AMVETS Auxiliary Unit 7, and they participate in a lot of activities for Veterans and community. Ed is very proud of his kids and grandkids, Casey, Nate, and Taylor. Ed has accomplished a lot in his life and, at age seventy-three, he has just recently gone back to work part-time at Mount St. Mary’s University. He is very happy with what he does.

Ed Superczynski is a very interesting person. I know I have not scratched the surface of his life. He is a very knowledgeable and talented individual. If you should stop by the AMVETS Post 7 and see him there, reach out and shake his hand and thank him for serving our country. Tell him you are coming sometime to hear him play the mandolin with the Catoctin Hollow Boys and you will probably get a big smile from him. God Bless You, Ed Superczynski!

by Chris O’Connor

From the Rockies to the Catoctins: A Naturalist’s Odyssey

Many moons ago, Jack Olszewski, who now lives in Cascade, Maryland, formerly lived on a 3,600 acre ranch in Frutta, Colorado, where he would saddle up one of his two favorite horses, Shadow or Comanche, then join a group of friends armed with revolvers for self-protection from rattlesnakes.  They’d ride up through the forest of aspen and alder in the Colorado mountains to above the tree line, then camp for days at a time to search for remnants of dinosaurs and fossils.

Sun-filled days of digging around at altitudes of nearly 10,000 feet, and cold nights sleeping under the shimmering star-filled canopy of the western night sky, helped instill a respect and fascination with the gifts that Jack believes Mother Earth provides us all. He augmented his knowledge while still a pre-teen by joining digs, working alongside scientists at the Dinosaur National Monument in Moffatt, Colorado.

Jack speaks ever-fondly about the birds and subterranean minerals, gems, and the flora and fauna with which we share the earth. His extensive portfolio of beautiful photographs is testimony to his travels and the time he’s spent observing the wonders of nature.

He didn’t have to travel far for one picture, though. At the home he shares with his wife, Holly, and their beloved Maine Coon cat, Casey, in Cascade, Maryland, he merely had to point and shoot out the kitchen window to snag a photo of a black bear climbing a corner post on the deck to pilfer seed from a bird feeder.

Another phase of Jack’s winding trek from childhood took him from the ranch and his mountain stomping grounds to the suburbs of Milford, Connecticut, when he was a young teen. His consolation for leaving the expansive acreage he knew in his youth, was to meet a boy whose father was a paleontologist at Yale University. He later met a former Oregonian, Jim Peart, who owned The Black Rock Lapidary in Milford.

The men taught Jack yet more regarding the study of prehistoric creatures, minerals, and stone cutting. As he became more proficient cutting stones in his early twenties, Jack partnered up with Jim Peart, availing both the opportunity to supply jewelers hither and yon with their finished pieces.

Jack, who is half-Cherokee, grew increasingly in touch with his Native American heritage. He became more involved with the Lakota Sioux and spent much time in South Dakota at the Rosebud Indian Reservation.  There, he studied under a Lakota medicine man named Crow Dog where he learned pipe healing, a variation of which he recently took part in demonstrating at the Indian Harvest Circle Thanksgiving Ceremony on September 12, 2014, at Synergy Massage and Wellness Center in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania.

While at Rosebud, Jack was bestowed his Lakota name, Tahka Inyanka or Running Deer. Jack Running Deer was active in the American Indian Movement that focused on righting injustices visited on Indians, such as broken treaties and the re-occupation of Wounded Knee.

A six-and-half-month-long trek from Maine to Georgia with his friends on the Appalachian Trail rounds the circle back to the East Coast, where Jack met his future wife Holly in 1980. Jack was employed with Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection where he learned still more about plants and animals and part of the Bald Eagle Project.

Another bend in the road of Jack’s odyssey was when he was afforded the opportunity to participate in the rehabilitation of birds of prey after befriending a woman who had an aviary. For over two decades, he helped rehabilitate birds, from falcons and hawks to owls and eagles, some of which were not releasable because of traumatic injuries. Those birds were used for educational demonstrations.

One bird still holds a special place in Jack’s heart, a Golden eagle from South Dakota that could never be released. She was a lofty 47 inches tall with a 7-foot wing span. It took Jack two years of patience and kind, good care before she would settle on his gloved hand, a necessity for her to be part of educational programs. He still marvels that a raptor whose strength behind razor-sharp talons sufficient to impale prey through flesh and bone never pierced his gloved hand.

Soon, another path in Jack’s professional career took him in what might seem a completely different heading: work in the aerospace industry at Perkin-Elmer and a variety of projects, including working on the Hubble Space Telescope.

Jack’s retirement from the corporate world in 2006 is what brought him and Holly to Cascade, where they could be near some of their family.  Here, he continues to educate and inspire generations of nature lovers in the ways of our furred and feathered neighbors, and wow many with the wonder regarding ancient fossils and sparkling minerals.

Jack is ever-accessible, continuing to volunteer at Renfrew Park in Waynesboro and at Gettysburg Battlefield, heading bird/nature walks. Jack Running Deer and his wife, Holly Red Shoes Woman, enthusiastically visit schools and other venues to portray Native American culture with the emphasis on the Lakota Sioux.

They show and sell all manner of crystals, minerals, and fossils at many craft show venues in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

It is our good fortune that the child who began his picturesque journey in the Colorado mountains has settled here in the Catoctins, and that Jack is happy to selflessly share his encyclopedic knowledge with anyone who thirsts for knowledge like he has always done. He’s ever humble.

Many who’ve met him regard him as a gift from nature and a friend to man.


Jack Running Deer and Holly Red Shoes Woman Olszewski.

30th Annual Convention — August 13-16, 2014, Memphis, Tennessee

by Jim Houck, Jr.

I was so excited when I received a letter from National Sons of AMVETS inviting me to our Annual National Convention being held in Memphis, Tennessee. I had always wanted to attend a National Convention, but it seemed like something always came up preventing it. I checked my calendar and it seemed that all the things I had booked for that time frame could be changed. I received a phone call from our Department of Maryland Sons of AMVETS commander, Ed Stely, and he asked if I would like to attend the convention and share a hotel room with him, as his wife, Carole, was unable to attend the convention. I said yes, I would be honored to attend and share a room. Ed said he would take care of all the arrangements necessary for our stay. He called me later and told me all arrangements were made and we would leave on August 9.

This past February and unknown to me, Tony Wivell, whom I consider a good friend, asked Deb Spalding, the owner and publisher of The Catoctin Banner, a community newspaper for which I write a column about veterans, if he could use my column’s space in March’s issue for a surprise story he had written about me. Deb told him yes and when the March edition came out, I looked for my veterans story as usual, but was very surprised when I read what was in my column.

I was so honored to find out they thought I was deserving of all the wonderful words written about me. I then received an email from Deb Spalding saying that she received an email from Dennis Solis, webmaster for National Sons of AMVETS web site, asking permission to use the story on the web site. Deb said she gave him permission and I opened the website and sure enough there it was.

I then got word that the story was being used in our national newsletter. I started receiving word from several places that I had been nominated for National Son of the Year 2014. I found this incredible, because I was awarded Son of the Year 2014 by AMVETS Post 7 and also Maryland State Son of the Year 2014 at our Maryland Convention. I was deeply honored to be nominated for National Son of the Year.

Finally it was August 9, and I was on my way to meet Ed at AMVET Post 10’s parking lot in Hagerstown, Maryland. Sons of AMVETS Squadron 7’s 1st Vice, and my good friend, Dick Fleagle, was my driver. Dick was using my vehicle to deliver me to meet Ed and his vehicle. We arrived around 5:15 a.m. and shortly thereafter Ed arrived. We transferred my luggage to Ed’s vehicle and exchanged goodbyes and safe trips with Dick and were on our way.

Ed and I made a few rest area stops and food stops on the way, but after 13 1/2 hours of driving, we arrived at our hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. We took our luggage to our room and we were tired from the drive, so we rested for about an hour before we went to find a place to eat supper. We returned to our room after a bite to eat and then settled in for the night.

The next day being Sunday, and registration not being until Monday, we decided to go to Graceland and take the tour. We met up with friends that were also there for convention and decided to go to Graceland together. Ed, Rusty Baker and his wife Joanne, Brenda Stauffer, and I, loaded up in Rusty’s van and he drove us to Graceland. I have to say I enjoyed everything there immensely, and I am sure all my friends did too. I know that Brenda enjoyed being there, because Ed and Rusty had to get on either side of her and escort her out of one of the gift shops. Eventhough it was time to leave, she did not want to go. When we got back and parked the vehicle, we went to our hotels to rest and then Ed and I found a place to have supper and then returned to the room to rest for Monday.

Monday morning, we received a phone call from Rusty wanting to know if we wanted to get some breakfast and do a little sightseeing before registration that afternoon. We met at their hotel lobby and decided to find breakfast on Beale Street, since we had heard how great the food was there. So we asked the lady at the information desk how to get to Beale Street. The lady said go six blocks up Main Street and we would find it. We walked and walked and figured we had walked at least six blocks but we hadn’t found it yet. A man on the street (we had been warned about the street people) approached us and asked if he could help us. We said we were looking for Beale Street and he said, well follow me as that is where I am heading now. We again walked and walked and finally we were there. The man then told us he was living on the streets and he said he needed a shower and it cost $7.00 at the mission, we said we didn’t have any money and he said ok and led us to a restaurant called Miss Polly’s. I saw Rusty walk over and slide him a few dollars and I did the same and he thanked me and off he went. We had breakfast at Miss Polly’s and it was great food and great hospitality. We then did some sight seeing on Beale Street and Brenda had to do some Elvis shopping. We returned back at our hotel in time to rest a little and then catch a late lunch and then head over to the convention center for registration. When we were done registering, we were told Tuesday was a free day and the National Auxiliary was sponsoring a trip on Tuesday to St. Jude’s Children Hospital and we could sign up to attend for $10.00 and that would go as a donation to St. Jude’s.

Ed and I signed on and when Tuesday came we loaded onto the bus for the tour. That was probably the best $10.00 tour I have ever taken.

We arrived at St. Jude’s and were directed to the welcome center and asked to look around and enjoy the architecture and information area until a guide was available to give us a tour of St. Jude’s Hospital. I took lots of pictures and I think I read all of the information about Danny Thomas and how he started St. Jude’s and why he started St. Jude’s. I was really wrapped up in the welcome center when our guide showed up. I have had experience with guides before and I just thought they were all the same, monotone drone-like voices who are only there to get the tour over with and collect their paycheck on pay day. I will never think they are all that way again. We had a guide who, I think, was proud to be a part of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and truly loved what she was doing. She had a vast knowledge of all phases of the operation of St. Jude’s. I thanked God for getting this guide, because we passed a few other guides and there it was, the drone and their eyes rolling up, as if saying why do I have to do this job. I am sure our guide did not even consider what she was doing as a job. Well, I will say I learned a lot about St. Jude’s that day and in this man’s opinion I think any child with a life threatening diagnosis needs to be referred to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

Wednesday morning, it was time for us to dress in our suits and patriotic ties and start our business meetings from 7:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. We then had two hours to go to our room and rest and then dress in casual attire for the banquet at 8:00 p.m. We enjoyed a dinner consisting of Bar-B-Q ribs and chicken with sides and dessert and open bar. The entertainment was an Elvis tribute and the Elvis look-alike did a good job. Brenda was in paradise trying to catch his sweat scarves and finally caught the last one he threw. We left the banquet around 10:30 p.m. satisfied with a good meal being well entertained.

Thursday morning, we were back in our suits and patriotic ties for an awards breakfast at 8:00 a.m. Sons of AMVETS Squadron 7 picked up some awards and Sons of AMVETS Squadron 9 picked up some awards. I heard the remark, I thought you would never stop accepting awards, from someone behind us. I was not awarded National Son of the Year, but was very honored to have been nominated.

A deserving Son from Florida received National Son of the Year 2014. We Attended a business meeting at 2:00 p.m. After the meeting, we went back to our room and changed and rested and then went to Westy’s for Bar-B-Q ribs and catfish. I think they have the best BAR-B-Q ribs and baked beans I have ever tasted. The catfish was very good, also, but I am partial to SOA Squadron 7’s fried catfish.

On Friday morning, we were back in our suits and ties attending business meetings. Afterwards, we rested and then went investigating more of Memphis and its charm. I took a lot of pictures of the parks and building in downtown Memphis and horse and buggies and of Beale Street establishments. I took pictures of sunsets and riverboats and barges and people, but when we visited Graceland, I forgot my camera and did not get any pictures of the mansion or contents therein. I hope Brenda will send me some picture of Graceland and I know she has plenty of them, because I don’t think she missed getting a shot.

Saturday morning, Ed and I dressed in our suits and patriotic ties for our last business session ending with the election of officers being held from 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. We left the meeting and went back to the room and changed and decided to tour the parks and streets again ending up on Beale Street where got some lunch at Miss Polly’s and then made our way back to our room. We took our time getting ready for the Officers Dinner aboard the Riverboat Island Queen to begin at 7:00 p.m.

We had a great meal of Bar-B-Q ribs and chicken with sides and desert, I think that must be the standard banquet type meal in Memphis, and we were entertained by a group of musicians that were very talented. I went to the top deck a short time after I finished eating and enjoyed the night lights along the Mississippi River. After the fantastic meal and riverboat ride, Ed and I went back to the room and packed all our things except what we would need in the morning and loaded them in the car so we could get an early start in the morning.

Sunday morning, we left Memphis a little after 5:00 a.m. and about 13 1/2 hours later we were meeting Dick Fleagle, and after transferring my luggage to my vehicle and saying goodbyes and have a safe trips, I was on my way home.

I want to thank Ed Stely, Dick Fleagle, Department of Maryland Sons of AMVETS, Sons of AMVETS Squadron 7, and everyone else who made this adventure possible. I had one of the greatest times of my life and met some amazing people while enjoying myself so much. I am looking forward to next year’s National Convention being held in Birmingham, Alabama and I am hoping to take my wife, Joan, along to make up for not having her along to see her favorite star’s mansion, Graceland.

I would like to say in closing as usual: God Bless the United States of America and God Bless our American Veterans.

National Convention Memphis Tenn_ 2014 (42)




Jim Houck, Jr. at the National Sons of AMVETS Annual National Convention held in Memphis, Tennessee, August 13-16, 2014.

A Taste of Ireland Right Here in Thurmont

by James Rada, Jr.

It took more than the luck of the Irish to keep Fitzgerald’s Shamrock Restaurant in business for more than fifty years.

“There were days and nights in a row that I wouldn’t go home,” said Mike Fitzgerald, who opened the Shamrock in 1963. “I would be working here doing whatever needed to be done and then I would sleep here.”

Though the Shamrock Restaurant opened in 1963, the building actually had been around since the 1950s. It was a dance hall that didn’t have the best reputation. This is why Fitzgerald was able to purchase it at an affordable price.

He also knew that he had to change the way in which people looked at the building in order to turn it into a successful restaurant.

“The walls were all covered with beer signage and paintings by George Crawford,” said Donna Demmon, Fitzgerald’s oldest child, who also works at the restaurant.

The walls were stripped and redone, turning the dance hall side of the building into the dining room. Only two rows of tables had tablecloths originally, and a smaller dance floor was left in place for weekend dances.

On the bar side, Fitzgerald raised the price of beers. This might seem counterintuitive, but apparently a lot of troublemakers came into the dance hall for cheap beer. Raising the prices caused them to look elsewhere for their drinks.

The Shamrock began as, and still is, a family business. Fitzgerald, his wife, his mother, and his nine children (as they grew old enough) all worked in the restaurant. Demmon started when she was thirteen years old.

“Everyone grew up in here working,” Demmon said of her and her siblings.

Fitzgerald had been a machinist with Moore Business Systems, but he had advanced as far as he could without moving out of state. He had grown up in a restaurant family, though. His parents had owned Fitzgerald’s in Emmitsburg until his father died in 1940. Fitzgerald and his wife had decided that they could open a new restaurant and make it successful.

“They had to make it work,” Demmon stated. “They had a family to feed.”

The Shamrock was the first restaurant in Frederick County in 1965 to get a liquor license.

“In order to do that, they had to take all the bar stools out of the bar,” Demmon said. This had to do with the stools indicating that it was a bar and not a restaurant. The stools were replaced with tables next to the bar.

Customers could not carry their drinks in the restaurant, either.

“If you wanted to go from the bar side to the dining room, a server had to carry your drink for you,” said Demmon.

When Demmon graduated from St. Joseph’s College in Emmitsburg, her father sent her on a trip to Ireland. Demmon wasn’t looking forward to it, because her grandmother also went along as a chaperone. Much to Demmon’s surprise, she was the one who wound up being the chaperone.

“My grandmother was an outgoing, social person, who would sit and talk with anyone, whether we were in a store or out on the road,” Demmon remembered.

More than a vacation, Demmon and her grandmother visited many of the Emerald Isle’s pubs, taking notes and lots of pictures. “We used them to redo the bar so that it had the atmosphere of a pub in Ireland,” said Demmon.

Besides Irish fare like shepherd’s pie, Shamrock Irish egg, and corned beef and cabbage, seafood dishes are also popular items. “We serve a soft-shell crab sandwich with crabs from the Eastern Shore that is delicious,” said Demmon.

Demmon remembers that her father used to get up early on Thursday mornings and drive to Baltimore, Maryland, to be there at 4:00 a.m. He would walk through the seafood market, buying crabmeat, fish, shrimp, and more before driving to a produce market on Caroline Street to buy any additional produce beyond what their garden could supply.“Then, he would have to hurry up and be back here in time to open [the restaurant].”

In those days, the restaurant was only closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

“My dad used to try and close up early on Christmas Eve at 5 p.m.,” says Demmon. “That was because he had to get home and put together toys for nine kids.”

The restaurant also won a national award years ago for having the best St. Patrick’s Day party in the nation. It was awarded by a corned beef company in Missouri. The Shamrock entered its menus, samples of its advertising, information about how long the St. Patrick’s Day party had been taking place, and the media coverage the party had received.

“We also included notes from people who had come to the party,” Demmon said. “At that time, we had people coming from Florida and Niagara Falls just to come to the party.”

The Shamrock Restaurant is located at 7701 Fitzgerald Road in Thurmont.

Their hours are: 11:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 11:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday; noon-9:00 p.m. on Sunday; weekday luncheons 11:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

For more information, visit their website at