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West End home brings warmth to neighborhood

December 24, 1998

(Editor's note: For these 12 days before Christmas, we will be recognizing individuals and groups who make the holidays better for others. This is the last of the series.)

Barb HinkleBy BRENDAN KIRBY / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




For more than a decade, the Hinkle house shone like a beacon of Christmas spirit in the West End of Hagerstown.

Then suddenly, all was dark last year.

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Barb Hinkle, 38, said she started to put up lights as she had every other year that she had lived there. But she took them down, unable to celebrate Christmas in the wake of her husband's death.

"The last seven months he was here, I was with him 24-7," she said. "It takes a lot out of you."

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Thomas "Randy" Hinkle, 42, a popular Hagerstown firefighter, succumbed after a long bout with cancer on Dec. 3, 1997.

"His last words were: 'Make her go on. Don't let her sit around and mourn me,'" she said.

But it was too much to ask Hinkle to so easily give up the man that had meant so much to her and their daughter.

But this year, Hinkle said she wanted to return to the Christmas tradition. So up went the white lights on the house at 844 Marshall St.; the green lights on the split-rail fence and the red and green lights on the chain-link fence that runs around back.

In all, there are about 2,000 lights plus two reindeer and a Christmas tree, Hinkle said.

It was just like it had always been - with one important exception. Unlike past years, Hinkle said she waited until Dec. 3, the anniversary of her husband's death, to flip the switch.

That, too, will probably become a holiday tradition, she said.

Hinkle said her husband never got discouraged when kids would steal light bulbs or cut wires.

"We just taped the wires back together and plugged the back in again," she said.

Hinkle said the Christmas displays drew many comments from admiring neighbors. She said it was the embodiment of the way her husband lived his life - helping others.

In addition to driving a fire truck, Randy Hinkle shoveled snow for a lady in the West End before he went to work and helped senior citizens, she said.

"He always did for everybody else before he did for us," she said.

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