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The 'Meet Loaf Gang' offers social time for older residents

April 19, 2004|By MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - What do you do after you retire, have some time on your hands and find you miss the company of people your own age?

If you are like John Spessard, you find others who feel the same way and substitute companionship for loneliness.

"We call ourselves 'The Meet Loaf Gang' because we meet and loaf," Spessard said with a twinkle in his 83-year-old eyes.

On a recent morning, The Meet Loaf Gang was at the McDonald's restaurant on Dual Highway at Cannon Avenue.

"Most of us used to volunteer with REACT, so that's how we know each other," Spessard said.

REACT stands for Radio Emergency Associated Citizen Team, a group of people who assist motorists in distress via their CB radios.

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Spessard said he monitored his radio 24 hours a day in his younger years.

McDonald's manager Eric Boger said several similar groups get together at his restaurant to eat, drink coffee, trade stories and sometimes even play a little bingo. One group of men who meet on Wednesdays call themselves the ROMEOs ? Retired Old Men Eating Out.

"We don't do the bingo thing; we prefer to just eat and talk," Spessard said.

"Every time we meet, we try to decide on something and then we argue about it."

The topics range from politics to the weather.

Spessard's group that day included Henry W. Funk, Charlie Hardy, Bernard "Mouse" Loughry, Frank Kovac, Bob Haugh, Alfred Barger, Bill Hamrick and Wilbur Snyder.

A Rouzerville, Pa., native, Spessard worked on the farm in his early years. When he came to Washington County, he worked at Lutherville Supply in Funkstown and then Ingersoll Rand.

"Then I retired after 15 years at Grove Manufacturing," Spessard said. That was in 1985.

Spessard remained active in REACT, helping set up safety breaks along Interstate 81 at State Line, Pa. He also volunteered with the Williamsport fire police for 10 years and served as president of a senior citizens club.

Funk, Hamrick and Spessard were on the ground floor when the Washington County Rehab Wagon (Unit 255) was put into service, providing food and beverages for firefighters during long operations.

"My wife died in 2002 and, since then, I have pretty much been out to pasture," Spessard said. "I got lonely, so we got together and decided to meet here on Wednesdays."

The "cure" was so beneficial that Spessard organized a second Meet Loaf Gang consisting of some of his high school buddies that meets on the second Tuesday of the month in Pennsylvania.

Funk, 87, said the get-togethers are important to him.

"Retirement isn't all it's cracked to be," he said. "This really perks my spirits up."

Spessard and some of the others make sure all the members have rides, taking turns picking others up and dropping them off.

"It's a great way to spend a couple of hours each week," Spessard said.

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