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A proper farewell

November 18, 2004|By JANET HEIM

Joe Maroni was a familiar face at the old Hagerstown YMCA on North Potomac Street, where he was both a resident and an employee, doing odd jobs and working the front desk at night.

When he died of heart failure at age 56 on Oct. 13, with no family in the area, there was no one to plan his final farewell.

That is until Karen Meinelschmidt, aquatics director at the YMCA, got involved. Meinelschmidt had known Maroni since the 1980s, when he moved here from Baltimore, and considered him a friend.

She said he liked to draw cartoons and would leave them in employees' mail slots as a pick-me-up. Maroni also decorated ribbons for Meinelschmidt to present to kids who passed their swim classes.

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Maroni qualified for burial assistance through Social Services, which meant the state provided $650 toward funeral expenses.

Arrangements to have Maroni's body cremated were made through the Gerald N. Minnich Funeral Home on North Potomac Street. When Meinelschmidt learned that there was no money for a memorial service, she persuaded the funeral home to let her hold a memorial service there, at no charge.

Minnich's charge for direct cremation and a memorial service run between $2,300 to $2,400, said Bryan Kenworthy, owner of Gerald N. Minnich Funeral Home.

"She took care of Joe for years. She was really a lifeline for Joe," Hagerstown YMCA Executive Director Michael Flicek said of Meinelschmidt. "It was really hard on her when she found out she couldn't have a memorial service. I think Minnich's funeral home did an outstanding thing for Joe."

Maroni, who had moved to the Alexander House after the downtown YMCA closed, was moved to Avalon Manor Nursing Home in May when his health deteriorated.

Father George Limmer of St. Mary's Catholic Church led the memorial service that was attended by as many as 20 YMCA employees - including the executive director, a former executive director, finance director and member services director - and friends.

"It seemed a lot of community got involved to make sure one person's life didn't go unnoticed," Meinelschmidt said.

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