It might not have been love at first sight, but Joseph Wilhide knew there was something extra special about Linda Kay Otzelberger the first time they met.
The year was 1963 and the two were on a blind date at the Fairplay carnival.
Linda was a young career woman who worked for the Washington County Board of Education. Joe was attending college and employed by a bank in Frederick County, Md.
But Linda's high school friend thought the two would be a good match.
She was right. It was the beginning of a journey that the couple would share for almost 50 years.
Now, Joe said, there is a big void in his life.
Linda died July 17 at the age of 69.
Joe said his wife was diagnosed with Crohn's disease about five years ago and went through various stages of treatment. Her immune system was weakened and she developed pneumonia several times "and steadily went downhill," he said.
"She often said she was a prisoner in her own body," Joe said. "But she was a fighter and never wanted to give up."
"She was an inspiration to everybody, right up to the end," he added. "Everybody who knew her loved her."
That love was evident during a celebration of Linda's life the night of July 22 at Potomac Valley Volunteer Fire Co. in Dargan.
"There had been a bad storm that night and the electricity was out all over the place," Joe said. "But more than 60 people showed up. It was quite a response from our community. People brought food and we talked and shared. It was very special."
Joe said he and his wife often discussed how they would want to be remembered when they died.
"I think most people who knew her will remember her as an honest, Christian person who cared about everyone she met," he said.
Joe said he and Linda dated for about two years before they married in June 1965.
"Neither one of us was too involved with anyone up to that point," he said. "So we decided to take things slow. Besides, I was quite busy with the Maryland National Guard, where I was in Officer Candidate School."
When the couple knew they would marry, Joe said they decided to build a house on property given to them by Linda's parents.
"We worked on that house prior to getting married," he said.
Being practical people, Joe said the couple decided to save up money before starting a family.
Their son, Brent Joseph, was born in 1973.
With a baby, Linda decided to leave her job as secretary at Boonsboro Middle School and become a stay-at-home mom.
The relationship between mother and son was special from the very beginning, Joe said.
"She and Brent were very close," Joe said. "He shared everything with her."
Joe said their world came crashing down in 1994, when they lost their son two days before graduation at Shepherd University.
"Our son's death took a toll on us," he said. "But it also made us much closer."
Joe said his wife always had been active in her church — Samples Manor Church of God — where she taught Sunday school, vacation Bible school, served as secretary and taught adult women's classes.
But there still was an emptiness in her life, so the couple became foster parents.
Joe said his wife had a heart of gold and wanted to become involved in a program to help children.
One foster child, in particular, continued to stay in touch with Linda over the years, he said. She would call or write to let Linda know what was going on in her life.
In addition to volunteering at her church, Linda enjoyed reading and spending time with family and friends,
"We were always talking on the phone," said her cousin, Garey Everhart of Sharpsburg.
Garey said she and Linda grew up together and always were close friends.
"She was a kind, loving person who got along with everybody," Garey said. "I'll really miss her."
Neighbor and friend Penny Strite said she will remember Linda as "a very courageous woman, very thoughtful."
"She was also a very sophisticated lady," Strite said. "She wore jewelry, always had her hair fixed nice and her nails done. She was a picture of perfection."
The Strites bought Linda's mother's home and have been neighbors to the Wilhides for more than 20 years, she said.
"I remember her bringing us a spaghetti dinner the first day we moved in," she said. "She was a wonderful person and will really be missed."
Linda had been in and out of hospitals for a period of time, Joe said. But she came home in 2010, determined to keep fighting.
"She had a lot of health issues and major obstacles," said Cheryl Ruff, a registered nurse with Meritus Home Health Care and Linda's case manager. "But what was so impressive about her was that no matter what we gave her to do, she took it in stride. She was very willing and determined to get well. She would push herself."
Despite her health problems, Linda always had a smile on her face, Cheryl said.
"We had a lot of laughs together," she said.
One of Cheryl's special memories, she said, is hearing Linda's voice for the first time.
"She had had a trach tube inserted and we would communicate in many different ways," she said. "But when she had it removed, that was a big thing. Linda so wanted to talk again."
Cheryl said she also will remember the love between Linda and Joe.
"Without Joe, Linda would never have made it as far as she did," Cheryl said. "They were very committed to each other."
Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs "A Life Remembered." Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Linda Kay Wilhide, who died July 17 at the age of 69. Her obituary was published in the July 19 edition of The Herald-Mail.