Deb Spalding

The Roddy Road Covered Bridge is a coveted link to our local history in Northern Frederick County. It is one of three historic covered bridges in the area, along with Loy’s Station and Utica bridges. The forty-foot-long single-lane structure was originally built in the mid-1800s.

Last June, it was struck and partially carried away by a box truck. The resulting damage made the bridge unsafe, so it had to be closed. Repairs to the bridge began in October and were completed by Dean Fitzgerald’s Heavy Timber Construction, Inc., in cooperation with the Frederick County Department of Public Works and Frederick County Department of Parks and Recreation.

While the bridge was closed, Frederick County took the opportunity to re-route Roddy Creek Road away from Roddy Creek in order to open space for a new park that includes a playground, walking trail, bathroom, parking area, and a (future) bridge-like pavilion. They also took action to prevent future damage to the bridge by installing a passive over-height warning system that a too-large-to-pass-through-the-bridge vehicle will hit before getting to the bridge.

Several Frederick County officials and staff came out to celebrate the reopening of the bridge and park on Monday, April 17, 2017. Frederick County Public Works Director Chuck Nipe welcomed guests. He extended sincere appreciation to the residents who attended public meetings and provided recommendations about how to avoid future bridge damage incidents. He also thanked several entities, including Jeff Yokum, the bridge neighbor who provided land for the turnaround at the bridge; Fitzgerald Heavy Timber Construction, Inc. employees who rebuilt the bridge; HMF Paving employees who were instrumental in the apprehension of the individual who damaged the bridge; Frederick County Highway Bridge Construction Crew, District 1 Crew, and the sign crew who fabricated and installed the signage and protective devices; Frederick County maintenance personnel who completed the electrical work; and the Transportation Engineering staff who coordinated the project and the reconstruction efforts.

Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner said, “In Frederick County, we are passionate about our historic covered bridges.” She talked about the historic significance of the bridge, and thanked all parties involved in its reconstruction and the formation of the surrounding park.

Other speakers included Frederick County Council President Bud Otis, Frederick County Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Mary Ann Brodie-Ennis, Frederick County Parks and Recreation Director Jeremy Kortright, Frederick County Parks and Recreation Commission members, Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird, and several other guests and staff.

Dean Fitzgerald, president of Fitzgerald’s Heavy Timber Construction, Inc., the contractors for the project, shared his memories of playing in the creek and on the bridge as a youngster. He said that at a young age he never imagined he would have a part in its reconstruction. He reminded us that we must continue to be vigilant about our covered bridges and our community. “These are blessings we don’t even realize we have.”

Dean remembered Shaeffer Bailey. Bailey was the bridge neighbor who lived in the brick house nearby, and the man who gave the land to Frederick County for Roddy Road Park. He was vigilant in protecting the bridge, taking Dean to task [and surely others] when he was caught throwing mudballs at the bridge. Bailey rallied the community to put the bridge back together in 1992, after it received damage. At the time, it took two days work for community volunteers to repair the bridge.

Dean announced that his company is partnering with Frederick County Parks and Recreation to construct a pavilion. “We want it to be similar to the covered bridge and potentially use some of the timber that was salvaged from the original bridge. The community is invited.”

Jeremy Kortright coordinated the cutting of the ceremonial ribbon. “This is an exciting day for the community,” he expressed, and thanked the parties involved in the restoration of the bridge.

Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird, reminded us that the bridge opening is eight feet, six inches tall and not every vehicle is going to fit through that opening.

Once the ribbon was cut for the bridge’s official opening, the first to pass through it were people on foot, followed by bicyclists. The first vehicle through was a Chrysler minivan driven by Thurmont resident, Joe Eyler.

Dean Fitzgerald, president of Fitzgerald Heavy Timber Construction, Inc., the contractor for the bridge repair project, is shown as the sun shines on the beautifully completed bridge.

Honored guests and elected officials cut the ribbon to open the reconstructed Roddy Road Historic Covered Bridge.

James Rada, Jr.
November 29, 2004, was Army Specialist Erik Hayes last day alive. He didn’t know it. The decorated soldier had just turned twenty-four a couple of weeks earlier, and was a young man with dreams. He wanted to attend college and become a veterinarian; but most of all, he wanted to return home to his family.

As he sat on the roof of an Iraqi police station with Sgt. Daniel Hopson, watching the streets, Hopson posed a question. If Erik could go anywhere for a vacation, and money was no object, where would he go?

Hayes turned to his friend and said, “All I want to do is go home and work three jobs and get my brother home healthcare and get him taken care of.”

Bradley Hayes had been injured in a car accident two years earlier when he was only eighteen, and was being cared for in a Hagerstown facility.

Hopson, who has six sisters, was moved by how much Hayes loved his brother. “I need a brother like you,” he told Hayes.

Hayes looked at him with a bit of surprise and confusion in his expression. “Hopson, we are brothers, brothers in arms.”

Later that night, Hopson was with Hayes on the mortar tank that hit an improvised explosive device. Hayes died far from his home and became the sixth Marylander to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

On Saturday, April 15, 2017, Hopson, Hayes’ family, friends, politicians, and Veterans gathered near the Monocacy River to celebrate Hayes’ life, remember his service, and honor his sacrifice.

More than one hundred people were at the State Highway Administration building, where Maryland 140 crosses the Monocacy, to take part in the dedication of the bridge sign for the nearby bridge in honor of Hayes. The sign that would be installed at the beginning of the bridge was unveiled, and Hayes’ parents were given miniature versions that they could keep with them.

Maryland State Delegate William Folden, who is also a Veteran, said getting the bill passed that allowed the bridge to be named in Hayes’ honor was the first bill he had ever introduced in the legislature. More than a “feel good” bill, he expressed that acts such as this mean something to servicemen and their families. He said the idea for the bill had been inspired by a trip that he and his son had taken to West Virginia, where many bridges and other structures have been named in honor of fallen West Virginians. His son had asked about the people named, which had led to him looking up information about the serviceman.

“I hope that every time someone crosses that bridge, they will keep in mind the sacrifice he [Hayes] made, and other young men and women are making for the freedom we have,” said Frederick County Commission President Bud Otis.

To date, 145 Marylanders have been killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Frederick County Councilman Kirby Delauter was the emcee at the event. Also in attendance were Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner; Carroll County Commissioners Stephen Wantz, Richard Weaver, and Dennis Frazier; Taneytown Mayor James McCarron; and members of the local VFWs and American Legions. Patriot Guard Riders and Desert Knights also escorted a procession of cars to the ceremony.

Hayes was born in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, but he grew up in Thurmont and Harney. He graduated in 1998 from the Living Word Academy in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania. Before he had joined the military, he had worked at a dairy farm and trained to be an electrician.

He had enlisted in the army in 2001 to be able to use the GI Bill to get a college education when his duty was complete. He had trained at Fort Benning in Georgia, and served in Germany, Bosnia, and Kosovo before being trained in Iraq.

Hayes’ father, Daniel, said of his son, “He was a good boy. He loved people. He loved animals.”

Hayes was also an artist, drawing whenever inspiration hit him. His father remembers a drawing on the cover of one his son’s army notebooks that showed a camel smoking a cigarette out in the dessert.

His fellow soldiers also remember him with love and respect.

SSgt. Erik Pisauro of Charlotte, North Carolina, first met Hayes when he was eighteen and said that Hayes watched out for him and kept him from getting in too much trouble. “He was a big brother to a lot of us younger guys,” Pisauro said.

Sgt. Tim Grossman of Lexington, Kentucky, said, “Even though I outranked him, I learned to listen to what he said. He had a lot of wisdom for someone his age. When he spoke, you had to respect his answers; he wasn’t rash in his thinking.”

Grossman and others also noted that Hayes was generous to a fault. “He would give you the last five dollars he had until the next pay,” Grossman said.

SSgt. Andre Topaum of Raleigh, North Carolina, first met Hayes when he was eighteen. One memory that continued to shape his career in the military was something that Hayes said to him early on. “Dang it, Topaum, pay attention and take notes.” Topaum said it is something that he still continues to try and do.

Hopson, who is from Oklahoma, arrived in Iraq as a sergeant and didn’t have experience on mortar tanks where he was assigned. One of the first things Hayes said to him was, “I won’t ever let you get embarrassed, Sergeant; if you don’t know the answer to something, I’ll tell you.”

Hayes has touched the lives of these men so deeply that they were willing to travel hundreds of miles sixteen years after his death just to pay him one final honor.

“Just remember Erik’s name, and he will become a legend forever,” Hopson said.

(above) Army Spec. Erik Hayes’ parents, Debora Reckley and Douglas Hayes, stand next to the bridge sign for the MD 140 bridge over the Monocacy River that was named in honor of their son.

(below) The VFW Color Guard prepares to retire the colors during the April 15 ceremony that dedicated the MD 140 Monocacy River Bridge in honor of fallen Spec. Erik Hayes.

Harriet Chapel in Thurmont will again hold its delightful Sarah’s Garden Social on Saturday and Sunday, May 6-7, 2017. The event was created as a memorial tribute to young Sarah Chandler, whose ashes are buried in the church’s Memorial Garden. This garden-themed event offers beautiful plants and flowers, great food, baked goods, live music, demonstrations, and much more. For more information call Harriet Chapel at 301-271-4554 and view the advertisement on page 10.

Mark your calendars for the 7th Annual His Place Car Show on Saturday, May 6, 2017. Event features raffle, door prizes, food, music, and more. Three awards each for five categories: cars, trucks, hot rods, motorcycles, and tuner cars. View the advertisement on page 18 for more information.

Plan a perfect night for Mother’s Day weekend at the Thurmont Art & Wine Stroll on Friday, May 12, 2017, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Entertainment will be on the square by Paul Zelenka. Wine tastings from local wineries. View the advertisement on page 23 for more information.

The YMCA of Frederick County will host day camps and residential camp programs this summer at Camp West Mar. Online registration is available at westmar.frederickymca.org. See the advertisement on page 43 for more details.

Thurmont Lions Club is holding a Cash Bingo on Saturday, May 13, 2017, at the Guardian Hose Company Activities Building in Thurmont. Event features king tut, tip jars, specials, door prizes, and much more. View the advertisement on page 10 for more information.

Frederick County Parks & Recreation is offering many fun programs and camps this summer, including Club Scientific Camp, Sports Discovery Camp, Beach Volleyball Camp, and many more. View the advertisement on page 32 for more information.

The Guardian Hose Company is sponsoring a Flower Sale & Chicken BBQ on Mother’s Day weekend, May 12-13, 2017, at the Fire Station on N. Church Street in Thurmont. The event features large assortment of hanging baskets and potted plants. Chicken BBQ starts at 10:00 a.m. both days. View the advertisement on page 20 for more information.