Zelda A. Hoover
This photo of Charles and Zelda Hoover was taken around the time of their wedding in 1946. (Submitted photo / April 28, 2012)
They met as teenagers at Christian Endeavors, a youth program at what was then Grace United Brethren Church, now Grace United Methodist, where Zelda’s family were members. Charlie was attending with a friend who was a church member, then later joined the church himself.
Zelda was 18 months older than Charlie and wouldn’t marry him until he was 21. They got married one week after his 21st birthday and were married 52 years before his death in 1998.
“They had the same interests — family, church, music, and in their later years, dancing,” said son Lauren Hoover of Hagerstown.
Their daughter, Christa Hoover of Maugansville, always bought her mother a bouquet of yellow roses to mark the wedding anniversary. This year, the roses were placed in Zelda’s casket.
Zelda was a lifelong Hagerstown West Ender, born on Washington Street and raised on West Side Avenue. With no school bus service available at the time, she walked to Winter Street Elementary School, Woodland Way Junior High School and Hagerstown High School, from which she graduated in 1941.
The couple opened Hoover Electric Service, an electrical contracting company, in 1955, and ran the company together for 40 years .
“They were a team effort,” Christa said. “She answered the phone and did the bookkeeping. He did the work and the billing.”
Family was a focus. In the late 1950s, when the Hoovers built a cabin at Cowans Gap, Zelda’s parents also built a cabin nearby.
“We were always around family,” Lauren said. “We got together for holidays and birthdays. She was an organizer.”
Zelda was the second of Melvin and Mae Ridge’s six children, the first of three daughters. Their second son died three days after he was born.
The Ridges later endured the loss of their other sons within five months of each other. Trooper 1st Class Lauren Ridge was fatally shot on July 14, 1950, on Northern Avenue, beside the railroad tracks.
He was the first Maryland State Police trooper to be fatally shot in the line of duty. Lauren had survived five years of service in World War II in the South Pacific before that.
Kenneth “Kenny” Ridge wanted to be just like his big brother and joined the National Guard after high school. He was serving in the U.S. Army in Korea and returned for his brother’s funeral.
Had they realized it, Kenny was not obligated to return to Korea due to the Sole Survivor Policy adopted by the U.S. War Department, since he was the only surviving son.
He did return and the family received notice in January 1951 that he was listed as missing in Korea. On Dec. 31, 1953, he was officially declared dead by the U.S. government, said Lauren, who was named after his uncle.
Melvin Ridge refused to move, concerned that if Kenny returned, he would come to their West Side Avenue house. The Ridges did eventually move, but only because a family member bought the house.
Kenny’s parents would not have a memorial service for him, not wanting to admit he was dead.
“My grandparents’ faith is what pulled them through that,” Lauren said. “You talk about things being handed from generation to generation. Faith is, too.”
The family members were active members at Grace and on Sundays when they weren’t in town, they would visit other churches.
“We never a got a pass to get out of church on Sundays,” Lauren said.
For six decades, Zelda sang in the choir and other church ensembles, played the piano most recently for the Men’s Choir and with the Junior Department, as well as teaching Sunday school, both for 50 years. She also was known for sending cards for special occasions or to cheer people up.
About 20 years ago, Zelda started talking about having a military memorial service for Kenny some day at her funeral. During Zelda’s final hospitalization, Christa and Lauren began planning a funeral that included a military tribute to Kenny.
“That’s what she wanted,” Lauren said. “We tried the best we could to honor her requests.”
Without a body, the U.S. Army would not participate in the service, but with the help of U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett’s staff, there was a memorial service with the folding and presentation of P.O.W. and American flags, taps and a gun salute with AMVETS Post 10 and Rolling Thunder.
“We are extremely grateful to them,” Lauren said.
Once the tribute to Kenny was complete, Zelda’s funeral service began. Music was a big part of her life, so the service was filled with music.
Music also was part of the children’s lives. Lauren was in band in middle and high school, Christa in band during middle school and in chorus in high school, with the Hoovers supporting their children and volunteering with booster organizations for those activities. Christa also was required to take piano lessons.
“Whatever activity we were in, they were there,” Lauren said.
Anybody who knew Zelda knew of her weekly routine, from which she rarely deviated for about 70 years. There was a set day for grocery shopping, for laundry and ironing or hair appointments, Thursday and Friday were cleaning days.
“The only modern convenience she embraced was the microwave,” said Lauren, who added that she used an electric typewriter for notes because she didn’t think her handwriting was legible.
Most Saturdays, Zelda baked, just in case somebody would stop by for a visit. And her family knew not to call her during her favorite TV shows — “The Price is Right,” “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy.”
Described as determined and strong-willed, attributed in part to her German-Irish heritage, Zelda always had incentive to recover quickly once she started having seizures and breaking bones in 2005.
Her only grandchild, Billy Stewart, was the apple of her eye and she was insistent that she would see him graduate from West Virginia University with a master’s degree in occupational therapy. Not only did she make it to the May 2010 graduation, two months later Zelda got to dance at his wedding.
Zelda requested that donations be made to Washington County Korean Veterans Memorial, P.O. Box 868, Funkstown, MD 21734.
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 Zelda A. Hoover, who died April 16 at the age of 88. Her obituary was published in the April 17 edition of The Herald-Mail.