Men honored for community commitment

November 11, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM


Hugh Brandenburg already has his burial plot selected at Rest Haven Cemetery in Hagerstown.

And lying next to him in the hereafter will be a patient he spent 17 years helping at Western Maryland Hospital - a man whose voice Brandenburg never heard.

"He wanted to be buried in the plot next to mine," he said. "He never wanted to be away from me."

Brandenburg and two others were honored Thursday with People's Choice Awards from the Community Foundation of Washington County for their volunteer work.


John Long and Rollan Myers were the night's other recipients.

Brandenburg, 89, began volunteering at the hospital seven days each week in 1981. He has spent at least 40,000 hours volunteering at Western Maryland Hospital.

But when Brandenburg talks about his service to the hospital, he doesn't mention the hours or the years. He talks about the patients.

The man who was buried next to Brandenburg's plot was on a respirator until he died at 42. Brandenburg never heard his voice, but the pair had invented a way to communicate through eye movement.

"He needed someone to be friendly," he said. "Many people don't take time."

Long, 89, is primarily responsible for the creation and maintenance of the Railroad Museum at City Park in Hagerstown. He is paid by the city for his efforts, but donates the money back for the purchase of railroad artifacts. He has also contributed more than $10,000 of his own money to the museum.

"This is a man who has given his life savings to this museum and to Washington County residents," said Niki Perini, of Hagerstown, who nominated Long for the award.

Perini said her children, Dominick and Maximus Perini, were always mesmerized by steam locomotives, but there was a time when it seemed they were going to the museum at least three times a week. She believes it was because of Long - known to the family as "the train man."

For more than 20 years, Long has given tours to children and adults, telling railroad stories and sharing the area's railroad history with others.

"He has created a small heaven filled with a train and caboose in City Park," Perini said.

Myers received the call saying he had been nominated for the People's Choice Award soon after learning his brother had died, he said.

"I really needed something to get through that," Myers said.

He received the award Thursday as recognition for more than 30 years of service to the Arc of Washington County, working with people with developmental disabilities.

Myers served on the board of Arc since 1980 - serving two terms as president and working on many committees. Myers also served on the Board of Directors of Arc of Maryland, the Hagerstown/Washington County Chamber of Commerce, Regional Airport Commission, Hagerstown Community College Alumni Association and the Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown.

Each man was awarded a $5,000 endowment fund to give to a local nonprofit organization. Brandenburg gave the endowment to the Western Maryland Hospital Auxiliary. Long gave his endowment to the Humane Society of Washington County. The Arc of Washington County will receive Myers' $5,000 endowment.

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