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Volunteer, 80, finds time for others

March 22, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Ask Frank J. Kovac how he finds the time to make award-winning mead, help run a computer lab for residents at the Western Maryland Hospital Center, assist seniors with taxes and other voluntary actions in Washington County, and his answer is simple: He eschews television.

"I don't watch television. I guess that is why I have so much time," Kovac, 80, said Sunday.

Sitting at the hospital's lab, the Myersville, Md., resident stopped and looked at patients and volunteers in the lab.

"You do this and you meet some amazing people. It is not a bad way to spend your time," he said.

The feeling is mutual, said Hagerstown Councilman N. Linn Hendershot, a former hospital center patient who started the computer lab in 1997 and who now serves as the hospital's communications director.

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"He is superman without a cape," Hendershot said.

"He is our hands and legs," said Hendershot, who breathes with the help of a ventilator.

For example, Kovac can make adjustments to donated computers or drive them to another site for repairs, and have an easier time of it than residents and volunteers in wheelchairs, Hendershot said.

Hendershot and Kovac have worked together in recent months to set up a computer lab at Potomac Towers, Hendershot said.

Kovac said he retired as a project engineer for a nuclear power plant in 1980.

Some habits continued after retirement, including making mead, Kovac said.

He first made mead around 1973 when he and his wife, now deceased, realized they had a lot of honey at home and decided to try making the liquor, he said. The result wasn't bad and he has been making it ever since, he said.

He continues refining what he calls "the classic mead - water, honey and yeast and nothing else" - and says consumption of it won't result in a hangover.

He has won blue ribbons in local competitions, and has competed nationally and internationally, he said.

He enters fewer competitions these days.

"I got tired of collecting blue ribbons" and the quantity he makes has dropped as well, Kovac said.

Since being widowed, he began volunteering at the hospital and with other groups.

Hendershot sings his praises and said he wishes there were more people like him.

"Give me 10 more Franks and we can move a mountain," Hendershot said.

Kovac spends at least 10 hours a week helping people in the lab with computers, which are a far cry from the $3 million computer he worked with around 1966, he said.

Kovac, who also works with genealogy groups, helps maintain rose bushes in the hospital's therapeutic gardens.

Kovac implored more people, especially men, to volunteer their time at the hospital and urged them to drop off unneeded computers.

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