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Llewellyn remembered for dedication to helping girls

March 24, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Maureen Grove was just 23 years old in 1993 when Ruth Llewellyn, then the executive director of Girls Inc., hired her to fill her shoes.

On Wednesday, Grove choked back tears as she spoke of being at Llewellyn's bedside Tuesday night as the longtime champion of thousands of young Hagerstown girls passed away. Llewellyn was 78.

"Girls Inc. is Ruth's legacy," Grove said. "I was so glad I got to say goodbye to her (Tuesday) night."

Llewellyn suffered a stroke in July 2000. Since then, she spent much of her time in a wheelchair at Homewood at Williamsport's nursing care center.

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She was able to be at Girls Inc. when ground was broken for the new gymnasium/office complex in 2003. She was unable, however, to be there when the new building was unveiled last December.

"Ruth was a very caring and giving person," said Anna L. Hershey, a longtime Girls Inc. volunteer for whom the new addition was named. "She took each girl and lifted her up."

Hershey said a lot of girls had parents who were working or divorced and Girls Inc. became very important to those girls.

"Ruth developed them to their full potential. You can't put a dollar sign on that," Hershey said.

For decades, Llewellyn modeled strength and independence to hundreds of young women at the Hagerstown Girls Club - the name of the agency before it became Girls Inc. - at 626 Washington Ave.

Llewellyn, who had an engineering degree from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., married, began having children, and started volunteering at the Hagerstown Girls Club in 1960 because she wanted to help empower young women. She eventually became executive director and stayed until 1993.

"She was a huge mentor for me," Grove said. "We were in contact weekly. She gave me lots of advice."

Grove said there were some tense moments Tuesday night as one of Llewellyn's daughters raced to be by her bedside.

"Brenda was coming in from Africa, and she kept calling to say she was almost there," Grove said. "And you know, Ruth held on until Brenda got there."

Grove said all of Ruth's girls at Girls Inc. were like daughters to her. One of those was Erica Sprankle Horst, who as a 5-year-old first came to Girls Inc. 18 years ago.

"I remember one time I was having differences with another girl. Ruth put us both in her office until we settled our differences," Horst said. "I always remembered that, and now I bite my tongue before I say things to people."

Horst said that in that way and many others, Llewellyn was far more than a leader to her and others like her who found their way to Girls Inc.

A memorial service will be Saturday at 1 p.m. at Rest Haven Funeral Chapel. The family will receive friends beginning at noon.

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