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A jokester's troubles, a senator's help and a cat

August 13, 1997

During the Persian Gulf War, Hagerstown resident Bill Kaufman shared his hobby - telling jokes - by writing to armed forces personnel stationed in the desert. His daughter Sharon says he's always liked to laugh, and his pockets were always full of papers with jokes written on them so he could share a chuckle with anyone he happened to meet.

The 71-year-old Kaufman hasn't had much occasion to chuckle recently. On June 19, the West Side Avenue home where he lived with his wife, his daughter and his grandson burned down. To get away from the stress - he's got heart and kidney problems - Kaufman and his wife went to Florida to stay with his other daughter while the house was being rebuilt. After all the trouble, Sharon Kaufman said, "It seemed like everything was fine."

No such luck. Before the elder Kaufman and his wife left for Florida, he'd been scheduled to visit the Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, so that doctors could take a look at a lump on his tear duct.

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"Then the fire happened, and he never did get down to Hopkins," his daughter said.

When her parents got settled in Florida, she said, then they decided to have the lump examined.

"They opened it up and did a culture, and it (the analysis) came back (showing) cancer," she said.

If her father didn't have heart and kidney problems, the doctors would operate, taking out the growth and removing a bone in his nose and one below his eye. But medical personnel say the patient's in no shape for that sort of operation, so they want to try chemotherapy instead.

For that, he'd like to come home, she said, so that he could have the treatments at Hopkins.

The problem is that the house won't be rebuilt until Thanksgiving at least, and the relatives they might bunk in with are already taking care of Sharon Kaufman and her son. They'd like to rent a place, she said, but nobody wants to rent to them on a short-term basis, especially because they have three dogs - a poodle, a chihuahua and another small dog of undetermined heritage.

The easiest way to resolve this problem would be to speed up reconstruction of the burned-out house. This is the sort of a project that the late Ed Henson might have taken charge of, cajoling various builders and subcontractors to donate their time and work extra hard to get everything done in record time.

But barring the arrival of some angel to take Ed's place, the thing Sharon Kaufman needs is an understanding landlord to rent a place to the Kaufmans and their pets for three months.

If you can help, call Sharon Kaufman during the day at (301) 733-0018, in the evenings at (301) 797-5492, or at her brother's at (301) 739-8117.

**

When U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., was here last week, I asked her if she'd been approached by the Washington County Commissioners for help with the $50 million-plus water/sewer debt that they've racked up.

Not really, she said, which surprised me. When I'm in trouble, I call everyone I know who might be able to help. Senator Mikulski could help, but not by attracting new industrial users. Those calls come to the state's economic development division, she said. The senator can help, she said, by obtaining funds to pay for the infrastructure - roads, utility and the like - that new industries need.

Mikulski, who last week announced a $1.5 million grant for Newgate Industrial Park here, could be of assistance in providing services to a new company that could use a great deal of the county's excess sewer capacity. She could be, that is, if somebody asked her.

**

A reader called this week to nominate Allegeheny Power meter reader Debbie Kesecker for a "thumbs up" for rescuing a lost cat. The story's a bit long for that column, so here goes.

According to her supervisor, Kesecker saw a poster advertising the lost cat tacked to a power pole in Hagerstown's North End. She removed it, then went on to her next meter, where she heard a noise in the bushes.

Could it be the lost cat? The poster said its name was "Murphy." Using that name, Kesecker called out to it, and it came out of the bush toward her. Neighbors who saw her with the cat knew it belonged to Pat and Ann Gorham, who were very grateful for Murphy's return, and grateful for the fact that this power company employee cared enough to pay attention to a little lost cat.

Bob Magnnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail.

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