Marjorie Ernst Kuhn led a life of quiet courage

September 12, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail will run "A Life Remembered." The story will take a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Marjorie Ernst Kuhn, who died Sept. 6 at the age of 84. Her obituary appeared in the Sept. 8 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

The Great Depression, World War II and the premature death of her husband all had a hand in shaping the character and destiny of Marjorie Ernst Kuhn into a model of quiet courage, according to her sole surviving son.

Marjorie died Sept. 6 at the age of 84.

Born in Hagerstown in 1920, Marjorie grew up on Wayside Avenue and graduated from Hagerstown High School in 1938.

After marrying Lloyd Kuhn, the couple first lived in Montana. After World War II, they moved to Lexington, Va., where Lloyd went to law school and was editor in chief of the Washington and Lee University Law Review.


They then returned to Hagerstown, where Lloyd was practicing law when he died of a heart attack in 1954.

"My mom was a legal secretary to my dad when he was practicing in Hagerstown," Christopher Kuhn said. By that time, she also was the mother of two young sons.

After Lloyd Kuhn's death, Marjorie, then 33, was faced with the challenge of trying to find a job that not only would support her and her two sons, but also would fit in with their needs for her time and attention.

Christopher said they were living on Dunn Irvin Drive when Marjorie went to work for the March of Dimes in 1954. She retired 31 years later as office manager of the nonprofit organization.

"Mom was also the secretary of the former Ernst family business, which was the parking lot the family owned off Antietam Street across from The Herald-Mail Company," Christopher said. "Her share in that business helped her make ends meet."

Both of her sons, Christopher, now 56, and David, who died four years ago, helped out as much as they could by working at a variety of jobs when they were growing up.

"David and I both caddied at golf courses. I was also a soda jerk for a while," Christopher said. "We always were doing something."

When he got older and was studying for a business degree in Delaware, Christopher worked at Chrysler and General Motors plants there to help pay school expenses.

"The deal I had with mom was that she paid a third, I worked for a third and the other third was from grants," Christopher said.

Marjorie made an indelible impression on everyone she met, according to a friend who also remembers her fondly.

"She was like a second mother to me," said Jackie Mixter Fischer, a former neighbor on Dunn Irvin Drive.

Now a member of the Washington County Board of Education, Fischer said she recalls many incidents where children in the neighborhood would bring lost puppies or injured birds to Marjorie and she always would take care of them.

"She loved to sit on her back patio and read," Fischer said. "And she and my father shared a love of working crossword puzzles together on Sundays."

Christopher said he was 6 years old when his father died on Valentine's Day in 1954.

Many years later, Christopher said he asked his mother once why she never dated again. With tears in her eyes, she told him she never met another man as good as he was.

"While I never knew my father, I saw him reflected in mom," Christopher said in a tribute he wrote years ago.

Editor's note: Harold Wills, and his sister, Mary Haines, both were able to identify the two women in the picture accompanying "A Life Remembered" on Ella Oppenheim that ran in the Sept. 5 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Second from the right in the picture is the late Letitia Shenk Bernhardt, a Hagerstown native who along with her husband, Elmer, helped found the Baltimore Opera. The other woman in the middle is internationally known operatic diva Rosa Ponselle, who died in 1981.

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