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Grumbacher remembered as progressive

March 05, 2005|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Colleagues and friends of former state Del. Richard Grumbacher remembered him Friday night as a humanitarian, a gentleman and a progressive thinker.

Grumbacher, 90, died Friday at Coffman Nursing Home after a long illness, according to his obituary.

Grumbacher, a Democrat, served in the Maryland General Assembly's House of Delegates from 1961 to 1974, when he lost his seat to Republican Donald Munson.

"He would give you the shirt off his back," said retired attorney and former Del. Jacob B. Berkson, 79, of Hagerstown. "He was devoted to uplifting the poor and the homeless and the impoverished and creating better working conditions. He was a true humanitarian. He was one of my heroes."

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"He was a very fine gentleman and his employees loved him," Berkson said.

Grumbacher moved from York, Pa., to Hagerstown in 1948 to manage the Eyerly's department store, which moved in 1974 from downtown to Valley Mall, according to The Herald-Mail archives. The store became The Bon-Ton.

Grumbacher served 20 years as president of Eyerly's when his family bought the business, according to his obituary.

Retired Washington County District Judge R. Noel Spence served in the House of Delegates with Grumbacher in the early to mid-1960s.

"I would say that in everything that he did, he was fair and tried to be always considerate of everyone else's opinion," Spence said. Grumbacher didn't compromise his own principles, he said.

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner said Grumbacher was a member of the local NAACP chapter before it was fashionable for a white man to be a member.

According to his obituary, Grumbacher was a life member of the NAACP. He also was a member of the B'nai Abraham congregation and Morris Frock American Legion Post 42.

He chaired the Hagerstown Planning Commission and was a delegate in 1960 to the White House Conference on Children and Youth, his obituary stated. Grumbacher was a founding board member of local Goodwill Industries, Big Brothers and the Memorial Recreation Association.

Grumbacher served on the Hagerstown Charter Revision Committee, which changed the city's charter to eliminate the ward system and create the position of city administrator, Breichner said.

Breichner, who was the city's first city administrator after the charter change, said he remembered Grumbacher talking to him about what the position entailed.

"(He) had a good vision of what he felt was needed," Breichner said. "The city was growing and he felt (city government) needed to become more progressive."

Irwin Hoffman, 78, who served in the House of Delegates with Grumbacher and now lives in Waynesboro, Pa., said Grumbacher was a "wonderful person."

"He was the chairman of our delegation," Hoffman said. "He was a very smart person, very nice. He certainly was a gentleman. I never heard anyone speak bad about Rit."

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