Hamburg worked behind the scenes to help others

April 17, 2005|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 Charles "Don" Hamburg, who died April 10 at the age of 77. His obituary appeared in the April 12 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

Charles "Don" Hamburg's only daughter, Cindy Brezler, understood her father worked for C&P Telephone Co., but she said she also knew early in life he was employed in the business of caring for his fellow man.

"When I was just a little girl, I remember we used to pick up an older couple downtown every Sunday and drive them to church," Cindy said.

A quiet man by nature, Don did a lot of his volunteer work behind the scenes, content to let others take the credit, according to his wife, Helen, and others who knew him.


He died April 10 at the age of 77.

When Don learned of a need, he would respond, Helen said.

"Don would often get groceries for people who needed them or respond in the middle of the night if there was a crisis," Helen said.

In 1990, a small group of community members got together and reached out by making themselves available 24 hours a day for crisis intervention situations such as emergency motel placements, food and medication.

That year, Don and a number of others formed REACH (Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless). Don was a member of the founding board, served on the program development and founding committees, and was an active volunteer for all three of the REACH outreach programs - 24-hour crisis intervention, Faith in Action and the cold weather shelter for the homeless.

"Through his thousands of hours of volunteer work to REACH over the past 15 years, Don made a difference in our community," said Terri Baker, executive director of REACH. "He, out of compassion and his faith, reached out to the homeless, chronically ill, disabled, frail and poor of all ages. He was a lifeline for those in need."

During the 41 years Don worked with C&P Telephone Co., he volunteered whenever he could. When he retired in 1989, Don shifted into high gear with his volunteer efforts in the community, according to his wife.

In late 1997, Baker was putting together the first newsletter for REACH, and she asked Don if he would contribute an article about his work with REACH. In response, he wrote "Who Is My Neighbor?"

In the article, Don answered that question by saying that a neighbor is anyone who needs help.

"The needs in our community are enormous. Through our compassion and our faith, we must stretch out our hands to give help and relief," Don wrote.

Longtime friend Wilda Gift stopped by the Hamburg home to offer her condolences and share her memories of Don.

"You never had to ask Don," she said. "He just gave."

Helen said Don was looking for a job in 1947 when he got out of the U.S. Navy.

"He tried out for the Maryland State Police, but was too short, so he went with the phone company," she said.

A friend "fixed her up" with Don a few years later and they were married.

Cindy said her father always spent a lot of time with her when she was growing up.

"He did everything for me because I was the only child," she said.

Whether it was the circus, parades, fishing or just a trip to the store, she said she often was with her father.

Children always were important to Don - both his and other people's. Helen said she and Don often would volunteer to drive children to church camp in Bethany Beach, Del., and then go back and pick them up in a week to come home.

"When we used to live behind the old Always Restaurant on the Dual Highway, all the kids would come to the house and ask if Don could come out and play," Helen said with a smile.

Even as he grew older, Don always found the energy to spend time with his grandchildren.

"He always played whiffle ball with me in the yard," said Kevin Motz, 17. "Pap was a big influence on my life."

Helen said she and Don once took Kevin and his brother, Brian Motz, now 25, on a monthlong trip to Australia and Hawaii.

When he wasn't on one mission or another helping people, Don would love to sit quietly and listen to the birds and enjoy nature.

"You know about 10 minutes before he died, Don said he loved me and puckered up," Helen said. "Just then, I heard all these birds chirping outside."

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