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A life remembered

January 01, 2006|By KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

Whether making vegetable soup or dying strips of wool for a latch-hook picture, Gladys Wolf had few peers, her son and her husband said.

To the first-grade classmates of her son, Dave, she was like a movie star. To Dave's wife, she was the embodiment of a 1950s homemaker.

"I told Dave, she was June Cleaver. She really was June Cleaver, very pretty, very composed, able to handle anything," Shanon Wolf, Gladys' daughter-in-law, said Tuesday.

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When symptoms of Alzheimer's disease forced Gladys to move to Somerford Place - Hagerstown almost two years ago, husband D. Earl packed up the house they owned near Fountain Head Country Club and moved to Ravenwood Lutheran Village. Gladys' paintings and needlepoint and shadowbox creations cover almost every inch of wall space.

Gladys died Dec. 21 at the age of 85. She is survived by Earl, Shanon and Dave, all of Hagerstown, and a son, Mike, his wife, Cathy, and his three sons, who live in Georgia.

Earl said he met Gladys about 67 years ago at a dance at Pen Mar Park. A mutual acquaintance introduced them.

"And that was it," Earl said. Two years later, on Sept. 28, 1940, they got married.

The bluesy sounds of World War II-era holiday recordings drifted into the room as Earl talked. He and his wife always loved swing music, he said.

"We were dancing ever since then," Earl said.

A graduate of Eastern High School in Washington, D.C., and the Washington School for Secretaries, Gladys worked as a secretary for the Special Committee to Investigate Un-American Activities under U.S. Rep. Martin Dies Jr., a Texas Democrat. She also served as secretary to Rep. Charles Jasper Bell, a Missouri Democrat, and New Jersey Republican Reps. Albert Lincoln Vreeland and Frank Sundstrom, her son said.

If Gladys was interested in politics, Earl said she didn't discuss it.

Instead, she poured her energy into hobbies, such as crafts and golfing, and building a household, Earl and Dave said.

Gladys was active in the PTA and attended all of her children's activities, Dave said. Her training as a secretary meant he didn't start typing his own papers until college, he said.

Dave said he still remembers that some children were envious when they met his mother. In first grade, Gladys came to his class, and her pretty smile lit up the room, prompting some children to ask whether she was an actress, Dave recalled.

"I guess I just took it for granted that they would always be there, but that was great," Dave said.

Dave was born in 1946, and Mike followed six years later.

"We lost three boys between the two - three miscarriages. You talk about hard times - those were the hard times," Earl said.

But, the couple also had fun, Earl and Dave said.

The family enjoyed Sunday drives and trips to the ocean and New England. When Gladys saw a landscape she wanted to paint, she asked Earl to photograph the spot, he said.

"She had more talent in her little finger than I have in my whole, whole body," Earl said.

The couple also continued dancing, and they took lessons to learn the tango, the cha-cha and the rumba.

"Our youngest son, Mike, said he ate TV dinners every Saturday night because mom and dad went out," Earl said. On weekends, he said, they went dancing and partying with friends.

Over the course of several years in the 1970s, Earl said, he and his wife even walked the entire towpath at the C&O Canal National Historical Park, hiking as many as 12 miles at a time.

Looking back, Earl said he doesn't know why Gladys never told him it was a crazy idea.

"You could take a walk to Boonsboro, couldn't you?" he asked during an interview at his home in Hagerstown.

The couple's love for one another survived even Gladys' illness, Shanon said.

"One of the girls at Somerford said she never saw anyone love a woman as much as he loved Gladys," Shanon said.

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