As 'Dad' and 'Pap', Myers built family togetherness

April 03, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail features "A Life Remembered." The story takes 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 Robert John Myers, who died March 22 at age 87. His obituary appeared in the March 23 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

One of eight children, Kathy Repp was just 5 years old when her mother married Robert John Myers, a widower from Smithsburg with four children of his own.

"Not many men would take on the added responsibility of eight more children, let alone treat them all as his own," Kathy said.

The couple later had two more children, raising all 14 on a carpenter's salary.

"We were pretty poor, but Dad made sure we had what we needed," Kathy said.

Robert died March 22 at age 87.


Kathy, her brother John Bagley and her sister Roberta Nave agree the priceless gifts their father gave them were affection, time and a sense that all 14 children were loved and treated equally.

When the new family came together, they were living on Broadfording Road.

"I slept with two sisters in the same bed," Kathy said. Her father built a great big table with benches so the children, who then ranged from toddlers to teens, all could sit down for family meals.

The children would shovel snow, mow lawns and pick berries to earn money.

"What we earned went into the family kitty," supplementing the $2.25 an hour their father earned as a carpenter, John Bagley said.

Robert also had many side jobs, including work on farms where he sometimes would get paid in milk or with a steer, John Bagley said.

The late Mabvis Ilene Myers sewed clothing for her children out of whatever material, including feed sacks, she could get.

"I got a lot of hand-me-downs from my sisters," Kathy said.

John Bagley said the older children had definite chores, but the younger children were expected to help out, too.

There was a list, and everyone had something to do, Kathy said. But it wasn't all work and no play.

There were trips to the drive-in movies in the family Studebaker, John Bagley said.

"We'd all pile into that car, and then Dad would put out blankets when we got there. It was just $1 a car," he said.

On Sundays after church, each child got peanut butter and crackers to eat while they sat in the living room and watched "The Wonderful World of Disney" on television.

"And then the line began for baths," John Bagley said.

Kathy remembers a lot of powdered eggs for breakfast.

"Cornbread would be a meal ... bread pudding would be a meal for us," she said. And they ate of lot of fish that their father caught.

"I never realized we were poor," John Bagley said. "We had everything we needed."

Robert worked long hours as a carpenter. He worked on projects at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va., and the remodeling of the Hagerstown AMVETS Post 10 on Frederick Street. He was made a life member of the AMVETS because of that work, Kathy said.

A veteran of World War II, Robert served in the U.S. Army, the Merchant Marines and the Air Reserves.

Roberta was the family's youngest girl, one of the two children born to Robert and Mabvis.

"I came along in 1962, when the family was living on Mondell Road near Sharpsburg," she said. The youngest of the 14 was her brother, Kenneth.

She has fond memories of playing cards with her father and grandfather and going fishing.

"We also went along when dad was hunting mushrooms - he would walk our legs off," Roberta said.

When she reached adulthood, Roberta said her father would delight in making furniture to order for her and her siblings.

"I designed a kitchen pantry cabinet and he built it," she said. When she was putting an addition on her home, she said her father would wait outside in his car for Roberta to get home so he could help with her project.

Retiring at age 65, Robert's health remained pretty good through the next 20-plus years once he realized he needed to stay active. Wherever he was living, he kept a workshop so he could make furniture.

The children, now all grown, have taken him on cruises, and trips to Las Vegas, Atlantic City, N.J., and California, partly as an effort to give back to him all that he gave to them through the years.

"So many people don't realize what they miss by not having a father like him," Roberta said.

Even as he neared death, he always said the same thing when one of his children left his bedside.

"He'd say, 'Be careful going home' to each of us," Roberta said, and then each child would kiss him on the forehead.

Granddaughter Kristin Johnson, 20, said she will remember that "Pap" always was willing to spend time with her, repeating his special gift to still another generation.

Daughter Barbara Hutton returned home to Washington state before the services for her father, but she had her tribute read at the March 25 funeral.

"There's a saying - 'Any man can be a father, but it takes a special man to be a dad.' Robert Myers was that special man," Barbara wrote.

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