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90-year-old has compassion for underdogs

January 04, 1998

90-year-old has compassion for underdogs


Staff Writer

Throughout her life, Emma Price said she has always been a champion for the victims in life.

Be it her involvement in organized labor, Democratic Party politics or the American Association of Retired Persons, Price said it has always been about fighting for those who need help.

"I'm always for the underdog, the guy who is being discriminated against, in other words," said Price, 90, who lives in the same View Street house she has called home for 40 years.


She also has the unique distinction of being the person who gave Rest Haven Cemetery its name.

A native of Williamsport, the former Emma Ensminger was the eighth child born in a family with nine children. She attended Hagerstown High School and her graduating class in 1926 was the last one in which the girls and boys were taught in separate buildings, she said.

It was during her senior year that she got a job working as a secretary for a local attorney. The attorney was doing legal work for a new cemetery in town, and one day he and the cemetery's owner were discussing possible names.

"They didn't know what to call it. So I said, 'How about Rest Haven?' and right away they accepted it," Price said.

And it never changed.

"Who would have known?" she said.

Price, who always loved writing poems and song lyrics, even wrote a three-verse poem about the name. For the effort, her photograph and the poem were placed in a newspaper advertisement for Rest Haven.

After marrying, Price moved to Detroit, where her husband found work during the Depression and the couple had two children, a girl and a boy. Upon returning to Hagerstown a decade later, she went to work, first at a local restaurant and then in 1944 for the city Water Department.

While some might find working with numbers to be burdensome, she enjoyed the work, and still does. To this day she audits the books for the Hagerstown Democratic Women's Club.

But working for the city also got her involved in labor. Price is a charter member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1540, having served as secretary during the union's first negotiations with the city.

Price also volunteered some 3,000 hours for various labor causes, walking picket lines or working the phones to get out the vote. But she added that her dealings with city management were mostly amicable.

When she retired from the city in 1972, she wanted to continue working for those needing help, so she joined the local AARP chapter. Once again she put her flair for writing to use, as she penned songs for the AARP chorus, which helped the growth of the chapter, she said.

She went on to serve five, three-year terms on the chapter's board of directors and two years as president.

Price is slowing down a bit, saying she needs to be careful after various health problems, but she remains active in the Democratic Women's Club and the AARP.

And Price said she enjoys her near-daily visits from her daughter, Beverley Hershberger, who is also an AARP member. Her son died when he was 19.

Price also has three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Recently the family surprised her one Sunday afternoon with a 90th birthday party, and then they gathered again for Christmas at her daughter's home in Maugansville.

"We've always had a close family," Price said.

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