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Church auction is 'the end of an era'

August 15, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

For the two women who lived there, the dancers who stayed there and the man who will soon move there, the worn white church on a quiet road in Smithsburg was, and will be, a sanctuary.

The Bradberry Avenue church, where Erika Thimey, a renowned modern dance choreographer, and her sister Hertha Woltersdorf, made a home for more than 30 years, was sold at auction Thursday night for $80,000.

Thimey, 93, and Woltersdorf, 97, have been at Somerford House, an assisted-living facility off Sharpsburg Pike, since 2001, said the womens' long-time caretaker Emma Comstock.

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"They are still alive and they are still aware - to get rid of their belongings is very hard, but it needed to be done," said Comstock.

Sharon Werth, the co-director of The Erika Thimey Dance and Theater Co. in Washington D.C., said Thimey, who founded the Washington Dance Theatre, was known along the east coast for her modern and liturgical choreography.

The Erika Thimey Dance and Theater Co. in Washington D.C. was founded to preserve Thimey's dance legacy, she said.

It was no surprise to Werth that Thimey, who she said was one of the first choreographers to incorporate dance with a church chorus, had bought the former Seventh-day Adventist Church and converted it into her home.

"She always had a very spiritual connection in all her pieces," she said.

Werth, 54, who danced under Thimey's direction while a member of the Washington Dance Theatre, said Thimey would at one time host the dance troupe at her Smithsburg home when the dancers performed in nearby Hagerstown.

"I have a lot of feelings about this," Comstock said. "It's an end of an era."

It's just the beginning for Jim Riffle, 34, who in October will move out of his parent's Thurmont basement and into the church, his first home.

Riffle, who was the only person to bid on the house, bought it for $80,000, a price within his range, considering the church needs to be repaired, he said.

He had given his real estate agent the photographs of a barn, a gas station or a church as examples of the types of buildings Riffle saw himself living in.

"I've always wanted a big open space. This is just perfect," Riffle said.

Werth said she bought seven plastic angels, which at one time hung in the seven stained glass windows of the sanctuary, because they were the last items to be sold.

She said she plans to give an angel to each of her dance company's board members.

Nick Schillinger, 63, of Smithsburg said he was at the auction because he was interested to see the winning bid.

Schillinger looked around at the rows of tables displaying most of the womens' trinkets.

"They're just worldly possessions," he said. "They have the things that mean the most to them."

Werth said many of Thimey's archival items, from photographs to memoirs, have been donated to the arts collection at the New York City Public Library.

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