High school secretary's work keeps her young

July 06, 2005|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note - There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like ...

Marge Gossard

Age - 62.

Occupation - Principal's secretary at North Hagerstown High School.

Hometown - Hagerstown.

Where would you see Gossard? - As a 12-month employee of the Washington County school system, Gossard is a constant presence at the North High main office. She has been a school secretary for 31 years, first at Williamsport, Surrey and Hancock elementary schools.

The South Hagerstown High graduate then switched school colors, taking the job at North High 20 years ago, her husband's alma mater. She has worked with five principals in her time at the school.


"I was always green, the kids (her two daughters) went to Williamsport, which was blue. Now it's all red," said Gossard, who sports North's colors even in the bracelet she wears.

Gossard has encouraged students during difficult times and in 2000, it was their turn to support her when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Students in the Class of 2005 have been with Gossard since her diagnosis and she said the group has always walked in the Breast Cancer Awareness Walk. Each year they have raised $400 to $600 in Gossard's honor during the walk held at Hagerstown Community College every October,

"In my job, you get so close to the kids," she said. " ... We've got good kids, very caring kids."

That connection was apparent when this year's graduating class organized a Fun Day in May in Gossard's honor. It was their gift to the school.

"It was a great honor," Gossard said.

The event was meant to be a surprise for Gossard, but it was decided to tell her about the Fun Day when she received news that the cancer had returned, this time in her spine.

A "Mickey Mouse freak," Gossard and her grandson were driven to the event in a red-and-white 1957 Chevy, accompanied by a costumed Mickey Mouse.

The Fun Day featured a carnival-like atmosphere of games, face painting and shaving cream fights. The goal was to raise $5,000 to fund a $500 North Star Scholarship - in Gossard's honor - for 10 years. They exceeded their goal and money still is coming in.

"My worry is how am I going to thank all these people?" Gossard said.

The scholarship will be awarded each year to a senior who has overcome medical adversity. The Class of 2005 had about five students who have had major health problems.

Keliegh Stonebraker, who underwent a liver transplant at Johns Hopkins Hospital, was selected as the first recipient.

"Keliegh always wears a smile. She's always happy," said Gossard. "If anybody deserved it, it was that young lady."

Gossard, who was raised on Western Pike, said she has three years left until retirement, health-permitting.

"I keep thinking it's only a couple of years, then I think I don't want to retire," Gossard said. "I may volunteer in the counseling center."

Her husband, Herb, was a masonry contractor and built the house on Kemps Mill Road, where they raised their two daughters. Herb was killed in a plane crash in 1989.

When Marge was diagnosed with cancer in 2000, she decided to sell the family homestead because maintaining the house and one-acre property took more time and energy than she had. She moved into a condominium on Pin Oak Road.

"It's been a good life. I've met a lot of nice people here and have been blessed with many very, very good friends," said Gossard, who considers North's faculty "more my buddies" than co-workers.

Hobbies - "It's crazy, but all I do is read," said Gossard, who added that selling her house freed up time for reading instead of mowing.

"My life has been North High since my husband died," she said. Gossard said she loves being around high school students because they keep her young and help boost her spirit when she's down.

She enjoys going to the movies, eating out and attending school events, where she often helps sell tickets to school plays. Gossard has long been the parish secretary at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Clear Spring, where she's a longtime member.

While she doesn't travel far from home because of her health, Gossard said she usually goes on one school trip a year and will be going on the senior trip to Disney World with the Class of 2006 in October.

What does Gossard like best about Washington County? - She enjoys the parks, especially Halfway Park.

Hearing the Maryland Symphony Orchestra perform at The Maryland Theatre is a favorite of Gossard's. "I really like Elizabeth Schulze, who is also involved with North," she said.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024, or send e-mail to

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