By JANET HEIM
4:04 PM EDT, June 2, 2012
Ralph Reeder was described by friends and family as a “country boy” with deep roots in the Boonsboro and Keedysville areas.
His love for the outdoors was fed by tending his garden, hunting, raising animals, mushroom hunting and hanging out on the back patio listening to the sound of the pond waterfall.
“He lived his life the way he wanted. He lived it the right way,” said his oldest daughter, Donna Anders of Boonsboro.
On July 21, he and his wife, Betty would have celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary. The couple met while working at Fairchild, Ralph as a guard and Betty in the office.
Ralph was taking Betty’s girlfriend, who also worked at Fairchild, to Richardson’s for dinner after work. Betty thought Ralph was married, so she promised to check it out before the dinner and learned that Ralph was not married.
The next time they went to Richardson’s for dinner, Ralph suggested that Betty’s girlfriend invite her to come along.
Betty, who lived on Western Pike with her aunt and uncle, joined them for dinner. Ralph offered to give her a ride home, although Betty thought it was out of his way from his Keedysville home.
She agreed to the ride, but insisted Ralph keep his hands on the steering wheel all the way home. After that, he asked her out, but Betty learned that he was engaged and said she couldn’t go out with him anymore.
Ralph ended the engagement, and three months later he and Betty were engaged. They were married a year later in July 1956.
“It was a quick engagement and a long life,” Betty said.
The Reeders lived in the West End of Hagerstown and Maugansville before settling into the Boonsboro home on more than 2 acres of property where they lived for 46 years.
Donna was born five years after they got married, followed by Cindy more than three years later.
Betty said Ralph was always direct when dealing with people.
“You always knew where you stood,” she said.
“He never minced words. He was a straight shooter,” Donna said.
Donna and Cindy, who lives in Keedysville and whose married name is Zang, have different memories of their father’s parenting.
“He let us learn by our mistakes,” Cindy said.
“Did we have the same father? I was scared to death to get in trouble,” Donna said.
Ralph got a job with Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co., now Verizon, where he worked for 38 years as a repairman and installer, then in the Keedysville and Hagerstown toll offices.
“He never had a sick day,” Cindy said.
Betty was laid off, then called back, but decided to stay home to raise her daughters. She got a job at Jamison Door Co. when there was a threat of a strike at C&P.
After Betty went back to work, Ralph would get home from work and start dinner, since he got home before she did.
“Donna and I were provided with wonderful opportunities because of him. We raised rabbits, horses, pigs. He provided us with our own meat and food. There was butchering and canning meats. I look back on all he did, and I don’t know how he did it,” Cindy said.
Cindy’s husband, Chuck Zang, said he “kind of got in on the end of it,” referring to the late fall butchering, and wishes he had had more time to learn the art.
Instead, Chuck enjoyed hunting with Ralph for about 18 years. Ralph loved hunting so much that he even went once with a broken leg, Betty said.
He also smoked his own country ham and bacon in the smokehouse behind the house.
Ralph’s country ham and bean soup, potato soup and the open-pit steaks he cooked at the McClellan Gun Club in Keedysville, where he was a lifetime member, were some of his specialties.
“He could cook anything,” said sister Lois Webber of Boonsboro, although she noted that he wasn’t big on cleaning up after cooking.
Every Sunday in the summer, there were family picnics, and in the cooler months, the family gathered for a monthly meal and always for the holidays. On Thanksgiving, the men would go hunting.
“He always had a story. He loved to tell stories,” said Cindy, who remembers sitting around the kitchen table listening to her father.
“Some of them embellished,” noted Deloris Smith of Boonsboro, the oldest of Ralph’s two sisters.
Lois said that Ralph was “bossy,” but that as the youngest of five, she thought her older siblings were all that way.
“We were very close,” Lois said.
“He let us know he was the older brother,” Deloris said.
A ‘good guy’
Community involvement was a hallmark of Ralph’s life and every organization he belonged to, he worked hard for, Betty said.
As a former member and past president of the Rohrersville Ruritan Club, he ran the club’s annual carnival for at least 14 years, saving his vacation time to work the carnival, always with Betty by his side.
“He was always helping others,” Cindy said.
Instead of selling the bounty of the garden, Ralph gave it away to family and friends, she said.
“He was just an all-around good guy,” Deloris said.
Ralph took charge of his mother’s care later in her life, with his siblings’ help.
The Rev. Richard Hembrock, a former pastor of Mount Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church at Locust Grove in Rohrersville, where Ralph and Betty were longtime members, said Ralph also looked out for several older members of the church, and had a gift for remembering names and people he’d met.
He loved the Baltimore Orioles and “adored watching his grandsons play any kind of sports,” Donna said.
The Reeders have five grandsons and four great-grandchildren.
Ralph enjoyed good health most of his life. There was an indentation near his chin, marking the spot where a dentist had to break his jaw when Ralph was about 14, because the root of a tooth had wrapped around the jawbone.
In the last 18 months, he had started slowing down. Betty had had good results after aortic valve replacement in October 2011, so when doctors said it was either similar surgery or a 12- to 18-month life expectancy for Ralph, he welcomed the renewed health he hoped surgery would bring.
The surgery to replace his aortic valve was performed at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and was a success, the family said. He returned to Hagerstown to rehabilitate at Meritus Medical Center.
However, almost two weeks after the surgery, Ralph developed a fever, and it was decided the surgery needed to be repeated to clean out a bacterial infection.
The death certificate indicated that it was aortic stenosis and bacterium that took Ralph’s life, Donna said.
“He was truly an amazing father and man. I couldn’t respect anyone any more,” Donna said.
“He was a good man, good father and good husband. I could have looked the world over and not found anyone I would have thought more of,” Betty said.
Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in the 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 Ralph E. Reeder who died May 20 at the age of 81. His obituary was published in the May 23 edition of The Herald-Mail.
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