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Thomas Punt's tough talk masked a tender heart

November 06, 2005|By MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

SMITHSBURG - To hear his family tell it, one of Thomas D. Punt Sr.'s leading characteristics was that he was strict ... he meant business in his dealings with his wife, children and grandchildren.

But behind that tough talk, Thomas was a husband who loved his wife, was involved with his children and found time to forge lasting memories with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

"Pappy always called me sauerkraut," said granddaughter Liz Rohrer as she sat in her grandparents' Main Street living room. A faint smile crossed her face as she remembered her grandfather, who died Oct. 28 at age 73.

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Liz said that when she was a youngster, she didn't like sauerkraut, so her grandfather would encourage her to try it by putting quarters under her plate - quarters that only could be retrieved if she cleaned her plate.

Without revealing if the ploy worked, Liz admitted that she still doesn't like sauerkraut. Now that her Pappy is gone, she suspects no one ever will call her that name again.

"He was really strict," Liz said. "I never wanted to fib to him."

Born in nearby Pen Mar, Thomas was on a Smithsburg High School trip to Glen Echo Park and other sights in and around Washington, D.C., in the early 1950s when he met a girl who later would become his wife.

"I was on that same trip with my cousin, who also went to Smithsburg High," said Marie Punt, who lived in Pennsylvania at the time.

The two met on that trip and hit it off. They were married and settled in Smithsburg, where they had two sons, Tom Jr. and Mark, and a daughter, Barbara A. May.

"Dad and I did a lot of hunting," Tom said.

Hunting trips to the mountains often would last several days, and Tom said they always enjoyed those times together.

"But then dad would get homesick and we'd come home," Tom said.

Tom said his father always did the cooking on those hunting trips.

"And at home too, especially after I started working," Marie said. "He'd have supper waiting when I got home from work."

Turned down by the military for health reasons during the Korean War, Thomas watched his brothers join the service. Since he didn't get to learn cooking that way, he relied on what he learned from his mother, who was an excellent cook, Marie said.

A self-employed painter who was known for his attention to detail, Thomas worked with his hands most of his life. For a number of years, he was employed by the Town of Smithsburg in a variety of jobs.

When he wasn't working or spending time with his family, Thomas was an active member of the Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Co.

"I hung around the firehouse with dad a lot when I was a kid," said Mark, the younger son. "When I was 14 or 15, I was going out on calls with him in his fire police duties."

That experience obviously made an impression on Mark, who has forged a career in emergency services.

Combining his love of cooking with his devotion to the fire company, Thomas could be found behind the counter of the concession stand during the annual carnival. Only after he had a stroke about nine years ago did that slow down his efforts.

"Now my husband, Chris, and I work the concession stand at carnivals," Liz said.

In recent years, Thomas spent more and more time at home. He enjoyed spending time with Marie and a variety of pets.

There was a poodle he said he didn't like, but eventually grew to love, Marie said. Then Thomas, the avowed cat-hater, warmed up to Patches, a 2-year-old fat cat that soon worked his way into Thomas' heart, not to mention his favorite chair and his bed.

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