By JANET HEIM
3:29 PM EDT, November 3, 2012
Margaret “Maggie” Hetzer was an original.
Her friends said she never missed calling on their birthdays and anniversaries, and those of their family members.
“She always asked about our families. She never talked about herself. She ended her phone calls with, ‘I love you,’” said Lieba Cohen of Hagerstown.
“How do you describe somebody like that?” said Bill Hetzer, Maggie’s husband of 43 years.
“Special,” said Carolyn Brooks of Hagerstown.
Even though Maggie didn’t like to shop in stores, the “fashionista,” as described by Tina Angle of Hagerstown, had a knack for finding the perfect gifts for her friends and styles that suited her unique fashion sense in the catalogs from which she shopped.
“She was so fashionable,” Carolyn said. “A lot of things she wore, only Maggie could pull off.”
“She was a very classy lady, elegant, but down to earth, wholesome,” Lieba said.
Maggie knew her friends’ style preferences, and was famous for dropping off catalogs with clothing suggestions indicated, Lieba said.
In addition to her style and caring for friends, Maggie was known for her love of animals, the outdoors, travel and commitment to the community.
“She was just a kind person, a good person and loved animals,” Bill said.
Maggie was born in Lincoln, Neb., the only child of Sam and Frances Weston, who were from Brooklyn, N.Y., but met in Washington, D.C., and moved several times before settling in Williamsport at the end of Maggie’s second-grade year.
They opened Weston’s Hobby Shop in downtown Hagerstown.
After graduating from Williamsport High School, Maggie attended Hagerstown Junior College part time and worked at the Washington County Free Library.
When she got a full-time job as a receptionist at IBM, she took a break from college classes, earning her associate degree from HCC years later, in 1982.
Bill remembers seeing Maggie for the first time when she was a little girl “in pigtails.” Her father occasionally would take her to the Savoy Restaurant, where Bill, his father and other business people would meet for lunch.
Later, when Bill was charged with the construction of Boonsboro High School, he remembers driving through Williamsport one day at about 9 a.m. when he saw a tall brunette, Maggie, dash across the road in front of him, late for school.
Over the years, their paths would cross and occasional dinners out became frequent.
“He called her Maggie or sometimes Miss Maggie,” Tina said. “He absolutely adored her.”
The couple dated for three or four years before their April 1969 wedding, when he was 37 and she was 26.
Bill said they were married by Ben Jones, an ordained minister, on a very rainy day, with a few close friends present.
They had planned to marry long before they did, in Vermont where they both liked to ski. Out-of-state paperwork put a damper on those plans, so they waited and got married here.
Lieba said Bill had honed his cooking skills during his years as a bachelor, so he did the cooking.
“Maggie couldn’t boil water,” Bill said with a laugh.
Bill worked for his father’s company, C. William Hetzer Inc., a local contractor. He became president of the company after his father’s death in 1972.
In 1973, Maggie went into real estate, working in that field until 2008 and eventually opening her own office.
The Hetzers, who did not have children, settled into the home Bill had built on a 60-acre property along Little Antietam Creek near Leitersburg. The property has been left mostly wild and affords sweeping views of the creek, natural trees and wildlife.
They also had a home on the Wye River, where their first boat was named Miss Maggie and the second boat was named My Blue Heaven, with Bill adding Miss Maggie II to the name.
The couple spent many hours watching nature from the sun porch of their primary residence, which also served as a winter retreat for “Holly the Hummingbird,” whose delayed fall departure threw Maggie into action.
She had Bill build a cage to safely move Holly inside, where the bird was allowed to fly around the sun porch until spring. Maggie did an Internet search to find out how to care for hummingbirds.
That winter, Holly had to share her space with Kit Kat, a stray cat Maggie found under the porch.
After he scratched and bit Maggie, she had to have a series of rabies shots and the cat was to be quarantined. He is now one fat, happy cat who lives with another cat and two dogs.
The Hetzers are community-minded and many local organizations benefited from their commitment. Hagerstown Community College was especially important to Maggie because she realized that many local students didn’t have the financial means or desire to go away to a four-year college, but sought more education after high school.
They were honored for their commitment at the 10th annual Tribute at HCC in 2009.
“Bill won’t tell you, but there are numerous endowed scholarships in their name. We ran out of names to call them. She was for sure the best advocate of Hagerstown Junior College and Hagerstown Community College,” said Lieba, who recently retired as director for institutional advancement of HCC.
Carolyn went to South Hagerstown High School and Maggie to Williamsport High School, where she was a cheerleader. They met through school activities and at the public library where Maggie worked.
She was happy when Maggie joined the HCC Board of Trustees, of which Carolyn was a member, providing the opportunity for them to reconnect.
“She was one of my bosses as president of the foundation,” Lieba said. “She had wonderful leadership abilities.”
Bill said he and Maggie were private people and didn’t seek the limelight. She also didn’t reveal her age easily.
“That was Maggie,” Tina said. “She wanted to keep people guessing.”
About 12 years ago, Maggie became concerned about her lack of energy. After many misdiagnoses, it was determined she had pulmonary arterial hypertension, one of the symptoms of which is fatigue.
There is no known cure for PAH, which is abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs, making the right side of the heart work harder than normal.
By the time it was diagnosed, the disease had progressed too far. The last two years were the most difficult for her.
“The pressure on her right ventricle was 100, the average person’s is 40,” Bill said. “Her heart just quit.”
Maggie’s friends said she never felt sorry for herself or complained, that she persevered through her illness and kept hoping a new medication or treatment might be discovered.
“She had the sweetest spirit. There was not a pretentious bone in her body,” Carolyn said. “She looked for the good in everybody.”
Maggie’s clothes are being donated to an organization that helps women in need dress for success at job interviews, Tina said.
“Maggie on her worst day looked beautiful,” Lieba said.
“It was an interesting life, a good life,” Bill said.
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 Margaret W. Hetzer, who died Oct. 20. Her obituary was published in the Oct. 23 and 24 editions of The Herald-Mail.
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