Hundreds gather to honor 'Nanny' Monroe

October 26, 2005|By DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ


She was strength, compassion, support and love. Even as her strength began to dwindle and the cancer began to take hold, Ruth Ann Davis Monroe was still all of those things.

"This is a woman that has preached her own eulogy," said Pastor Patricia Tillman, who presided over the funeral. "When I look at all of the people that are sharing the love she gave on this day, the works of her life are speaking. What she lived is spoken here today."

More than 200 people packed into Greater Campher Temple's main sanctuary on Bethel Street in Hagerstown for the standing-room-only, three-hour funeral, and many more watched the service through a video feed from another room.


Monroe, known affectionately as "Nanny" for her nurturing support of the community's children, worked tirelessly to ensure the continued success of the Memorial Recreation Center on North Avenue.

Through the center, Monroe sought to provide a safe haven for the city's youth and to keep them from the influences of crime and drugs.

"It's very difficult to stand here today because we have lost not only a colleague but a very dear, deep friend," said Ron Thomas, a member of the recreation center's board, as he fought back tears. "Nothing came before the rec center other than her family, that was her life. There was nothing she wouldn't do for the kids in the community."

Monroe, 64, was appointed in 1980 to serve as the executive director of the recreation center. Over the past 25 years, she looked upon the children who turned to the center for guidance and support as her own children.

Monroe's family and friends spoke about the kind of life she led and the woman she was rather than of what she had accomplished.

Rodney Monroe, one of Monroe's six children, recalled a moment during his senior year at North Carolina State University. Expecting to be chosen early in the National Basketball Association draft, he was selected instead as the 30th pick, in the second round.

"It was just a day of mixed emotions," he said. "I just began to cry like a baby, and just like the loving mother that she was, she wrapped me in her arms and patted me on the back and told me everything was going to be O.K. I have sorrow in my heart, but I have joy, because I know she's not suffering anymore."

Ruth Monroe was born in Hagerstown, the sixth of eight children, and was raised in a deeply religious household. In raising her own children, she sought to instill in them the same values. In addition to attending services every Sunday, Monroe served as vice president of the Usher Board for Greater Campher Temple and previously as the superintendent of its religious school.

Greater Campher Deacon Robert McKoy said Monroe would often ask one of the children to dismiss church for the day, a practice he said she used almost as a rite of passage for them.

"She was showing those children how to become productive adults in their lives," he said. "I'm talking about Ruth Ann, a precious jewel. No doubt she was precious at the center, but she was precious at this church. She was a humble person, she didn't blow her own horn, and we're thankful for the time she spent in church."

For every story of Monroe told inside the church, many more went untold.

Had he had the chance, 11-year-old Jordan Smith might have told the mourners about Monroe's smile.

"She was really kind, she always smiled," Jordan said.

His father, Rocky Smith, might have spoken about how Monroe helped him after he went through drug rehab, or of the support she lent him when he opened a karate studio in town.

"Anything I ever asked her to do, she always found a way," he said. "She was just a beautiful person. I'm going to truly miss her."

Maryland Del. Joanne C. Benson, who grew up with Monroe and often advocated for the same needs, said Monroe was an inspiration to all who knew her. A 20-year cancer survivor, Benson said she found the will to fight the disease through words of encouragement from Monroe.

"When I was going through my illness, it was people like Ruth Ann that said: 'Oh, it's going to be all right,'" Benson said after the funeral. "Even in the darkest moments, when she was ill, she never complained."

The Herald-Mail Articles