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Former military base holds first reunion

August 11, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Former employees and residents of Fort Ritchie gathered by Lake Royer on Sunday for the former military base's first reunion, but some said they weren't happy with the way their old stomping grounds look.

Charlotte Selman, the event organizer, said she ran into many people who said they missed seeing old co-workers and neighbors that they lost once the military base was closed in 1998, which prompted her to hold the reunion.

Selman, 74, who worked on the base for 24 years, said about 2,000 people lost jobs at the base when it was closed by the federal government about five years ago. Those people were sent mostly to neighboring Army bases, but others were scattered throughout the country.

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Only about 400 people came to Sunday's reunion.

Ray Dobbs, 46, of Chambersburg, Pa., said he didn't see very many people from his old department because, he guessed, they went elsewhere.

Former worker and retired Army member Larry Fedorczyk, 54, of Rouzerville, Pa., said he expected more people to come.

But he said he was happy that he decided to go to the event because he saw people he hadn't seen in years.

He wished name tags were passed out because he couldn't remember everyone by their faces alone.

Some reunion attendees were upset by the way Fort Ritchie looked when they returned after five years.

There were patches of algae on the lake. The grass was overgrown, they pointed out.

Fedorczyk said he wished the Washington County Parks and Recreation Department would have taken over the property so the golf course could be restored.

Bill Hofmann, 47, of Waynesboro, Pa., said he is one of only four federal employees still working at the base.

His job is in maintenance and environmental restoration. He said the base has no money to provide him with the resources to bring the base back to the way it looked when it was brimming with activity.

Hofmann wore a T-shirt that read "Out the Gate Fort Ritchie in 20??"

He said he wished that PenMar Development Corp. would have taken the property.

Kathy Fotheringham, 48, of Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., said she lived and worked on the post in the public affairs office, but now works across Lake Royer at the International Masonry Institute.

"I come here every day," she said. "It's very sad to see what happened."

Paul Mummert, 69, of Waynesboro, Pa., said he worked in the entomology department at the base and retired in 1994. He parked in front of the department for old-time's sake. He hasn't been back through the base since.

"I don't like the looks of the place. It's in horrible condition," he said.

Mummert said he loved working at Fort Ritchie because the employees were close-knit.

Fotheringham said her daughter worked at the base as a lifeguard.

"It's like a family, absolutely, and this is like a family reunion," Semler said.

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