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Wife of former mayor dies

January 05, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

erinc@herald-mail.com

Former Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner jokes that when Janette Martin Burhans walked into Hagerstown City Hall, employees would scatter.

"She always had a project," Breichner said.

Burhans, 93, former Mayor Winslow F. Burhans' widow, died early Wednesday in Frederick, Md.

"She was part of the fabric of what made Hagerstown a great city," Breichner said.

Burhans suffered a major stroke on Christmas Eve and was paralyzed on the right side of her body, said her son, Winslow Burhans Jr.

"She couldn't speak for the last week of her life," he said.

Winslow F. Burhans was elected to the Washington County Commissioners in 1946. He became president of the board in 1950 and served three more years.

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He was elected mayor of Hagerstown in 1953 and served three consecutive four-year terms.

During this time, his wife was active in local government, many political groups and volunteer organizations, Breichner said.

She also was responsible for designing the city's flag. Breichner said through a flag design contest, officials narrowed the choices to two flags, but were unsatisfied with them. Burhans took ideas from each flag and designed the one the city uses today.

When Hagerstown's sister city program was in its infancy, Burhans got involved. For 12 years, she and her husband chaired the sister city committee, and Burhans remained active in the organization for 50 years.

Breichner said Burhans had several friends in Wesel, Germany - Hagerstown's sister city - and took several trips there.

Sally Buschmann, Burhans' daughter, said her mother has a passion for traveling even into her later years. Burhans traveled to the Great Wall of China in her late 80s, and made other trips overseas into her early 80s.

"She lived a full and interesting life, and had a curiosity even into her elder age," Buschmann said. "She really set a good example for her children and grandchildren."

While Burhans' husband was active in public office, she clipped every newspaper story about Washington County and Hagerstown, Winslow Burhans Jr. said. She pasted stories, photos and other memorabilia into scrapbooks.

Burhans said he is not sure how many scrapbooks his mother made, but said she kept the first one she crafted when she was 10 years old.

Because of her scrapbooking, there is a complete history of Hagerstown kept at City Hall that spans from the 1940s until the late 1960s, Burhans said.

He estimates he has at least 25 scrapbooks from Burhans at his home.

"I look at them every now and then," he said. "And I appreciate them."

His mother would make scrapbooks from cruises and other vacations the family took. These were called, "Travels with Jane," Burhans said.

Burhans said his mother knew everything that happened in local government and often discussed these things with her husband.

"They did everything together," Burhans said. "My mother knew absolutely everything that went on."

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