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A volunteer for all seasons

September 20, 2005

During a 2003 interview on the challenges of being a retailer in downtown Hagerstown, Thomas Newcomer, co-owner of R. Bruce Carson Jewelers, said that a small business often depends greatly on the owner.

Newcomer, who with his wife took over the 103-year-old Public Square store from his father in 1994, told the reporter that how the owner handles his or her personal life can make or break the enterprise.

Having seen downtown businesses come and go over the last 30 years, we believe that's true. That's why it's all the more remarkable that Newcomer has been able to maintain a successful business even while performing many hours of unpaid public service.

That service won him honors as this year's Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year.

When considering Newcomer's list of accomplishments, it might be easier to list those things that he has not done.

Newcomer has worked on committees to study the revival of downtown, including serving on the steering committee of the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown's downtown campus.

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He's also been active with the Chamber of Commerce, the United Way, Grace Academy, the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra and the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.

Look at those organizations and his contribution to them and you get a picture of someone who is not only devoted to business concerns, but also to building a community in which art, culture and seeing to the needs of one's fellow citizens are important.

Typically, Newcomer said he does not feel worthy of the honor. He cited the words of his grandfather, who told him that one of his obligations as an adult would be to serve his fellow man.

We're sorry to dispute him, but he is worthy of this honor. Like the late Edward Henson and Michael Callas, two citizens renowned for their civic involvement, Newcomer is humble about what he does and wise enough to speak out only when it is necessary for the public good.

Congratulations to him for winning this honor. We are certain it won't be his last one.

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