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Recreation hall pays tribute to 'unsung hero'

April 10, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

For 30 years, the late William Edward McKinley conducted church services on the last Friday of each month at the Hagerstown Union Rescue Mission.

His family is commemorating that devotion by dedicating the new recreation hall at the mission to his memory.

"Dad saw this as his ministry," said his son, Bill McKinley. "The last seven years he was on oxygen but he still went the last Friday of the month."

William Edward McKinley died in April 1999 at the age of 74. He worked at Mack Trucks, Cushwa Brick and retired from General Motors in Martinsburg, W.Va.

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After his death, the family wanted to honor the memory of the man who gave his support to the mission on North Prospect Street.

Daughter Kathy Griffith and her husband, Steve, came up with the idea for the recreation hall at the mission to be constructed while the building was undergoing recent major renovations.

William McKinley learned of the need at the mission through his own church, Hagerstown Grace Brethren. It was at a service at that church that Kathy Griffith spoke with Mission Director Bruce "Sonny" Shank about a memorial for her father.

"There were a number of things we could have done, but this seemed like what he would have loved," Griffith said from California, where she and her husband, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, live and work.

The Griffiths will travel to Hagerstown for the April 27 dedication and open house at the renovated mission. The new recreation hall should be ready by then.

The family is paying for a ping-pong table, entertainment center with a television, couches, table and chairs, pictures, rugs and drapes for the recreation hall.

Also on hand for the dedication will be William McKinley's other children, Judy McKinley Downs, Donald McKinley and Bill McKinley, as well as their mother, Melcora McKinley.

"My daughter Kathy has been working with an interior decorator in California, picking out the colors," Melcora McKinley said.

She remembers when her husband was first asked to take the Friday night services. "They just asked him if he would be willing and he was," she said.

Melcora accompanied her husband, taking homemade cakes for the residents. A grandson, David McKinley, now 25, sometimes went along and sang.

Nancy Shank, program director at the mission, said there is a chapel service each evening at the mission. The elder McKinley's devotion to his Friday nights was well known, she said.

"Our dad was very committed ... he was one of those unsung heroes," Kathy Griffith said.

Bill McKinley said he believes the project is a fitting tribute to his father.

"I remember my dad telling a story about one Friday night when the piano player didn't show up for the service," Bill McKinley said. "He asked the men if any of them knew how to play and one man came forward."

The man was a former concert pianist whose alcoholism got the best of him. That night he played the piano as he had in years past.

"My father believed you can't judge a book by its cover and he lived by that," Bill McKinley said.

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