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Editorial - Don Frush's legacy

September 22, 1997

It's been a dozen years since Donald R. Frush held office as the Mayor of Hagerstown, so recent arrivals can be forgiven for not knowing the man who died at age 67 last Thursday. But Frush deserves to be remembered as more than a city mayors, because his efforts truly changed life as we know it in Washington Countyfor the better.

Frush almost didn't survive to begin his career in public service, however. He enlisted in the Army in 1948 and was sent to Korea, where he won the bronze star for jumping off a tank and saving a lieutenant's life. In 1950, the temperature dipped to 22 degrees below zero, and in addition to other wounds, he was hospitalized with frost-bitten feet for seven months. He later returned to duty as a provost sergeant in Inchon, where he organized an effort to raise money for food and care for orphaned Korean children.

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When he returned to the U.S., his talent for organization got him involved in battling a highway proposed along the towpath of the C&O Canal. Later he was instrumental in the effort to pass planning and zoning, which was bitterly denounced by many who believed that land-use controls were nothing less than a first step toward communism.

But the ordinance was passed, along with a county land-use plan, and a subdivision ordinance that forced developers to build roads in their developments. He was also active in the effort to protect the Potomac River, and in the development of the Hagerstown bypass now known as Eastern Boulevard.

As mayor, Frush became a full-time executive in City Hall and initiated programs like the Commercial/Industrial Commission, the city's own economic-development agency; the Downtown Assessment District, a tool to help independent merchants in the center city do mall-type promotions and a revolving-loan fund, to provide money to those renovating in-city properties at below-market rates.

He could be exasperating, but nothing he did was for his private gain. Without his efforts, Washington County would be a different place, not nearly as beautiful or orderly as what we have now.

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