Her life was well-grounded

Dorothy Wigfield loved gardening, cooking for family

Dorothy Wigfield loved gardening, cooking for family

January 29, 2006|By MARLO BARNHART

Sitting around the kitchen table in the home where many of them grew up, two daughters and two of the four sons of Dorothy McCusker Wigfield said they were happy they were able to get their mother through the recent holidays before she passed away.

"She hung on through Christmas," daughter Dorinda Stanley said. More than 40 members of the family crowded into the house for what turned out to be Dorothy's last Christmas.

Jane Ambrose, Dorothy's other daughter, was glad her mother also was able to enjoy her traditional New Year's meal of pork, sauerkraut and mashed potatoes.


"That was one of her favorites," she said.

The home on National Pike was built by Dorothy's husband in the early 1950s. She remained in that house after the death of her husband in 1990 and after all six of her children had grown up and gone out on their own.

Dorothy died Jan. 17 at the age of 89.

The house remained the hub of Wigfield family activities.

"Mom was always in the kitchen, always cooking," Dorinda said.

Dorothy's rhubarb pies were famous and family members often went looking for rhubarb in the spring for those pies.

Just this past November, Jane said, her mother talked about planting spring onions this year.

"She just had a little garden now, but she was still planting every year," Jane said.

Dean was the youngest in the family. He said he remembers helping out in his mother's garden, but it was his brother Richard who tilled the garden for Dorothy for the last 10 years.

"She'd be out there with me in the garden, directing me," Richard said. He always figured the job only would take an hour or two, but it always took three or four. Still, he said he didn't mind.

"I remember she loved to cook turnips, parsnips and potatoes together, but I only liked the potatoes," Richard said. He said he would fish out the potatoes, but it was a wasted effort since they always tasted like turnips.

Dorinda said her mother still used a wringer washing machine despite several attempts by her children to buy her an automatic one.

"She did her own cleaning and even canned some beans up until this past summer," Jane said.

Down in the basement of the four-bedroom house was Dorothy's exercise bike and a rowing machine, both of which she still was using on a daily basis until the final months of her life.

Daughter-in-law Sharon, Richard's wife, became teary-eyed when she recalled how she was welcomed into the family.

"She was not only my mother-in-law, she was my friend," Sharon said.

Dorinda said it is going to be very hard seeing someone else in the family home.

"She was always here," Dorinda said. "Mom never drove a car and she always regretted that."

Growing up as the granddaughter of a lockkeeper for the C&O Canal, Dorothy lived her early years in Little Orleans, Md. Her father had helped build the Indigo Tunnel of the Western Maryland Railway.

When she married Homer Wigfield, they moved briefly to Baltimore. Not liking the "big city," they moved back to Western Maryland when Homer got work at Fairchild Industries.

Strong in her Roman Catholic faith, Dorothy always took her children to confession and Mass once a week at St. Mary's.

"Dad would take us, sit in the car and read the newspaper," said Lowell, six years older than his brother Dean.

"You had to go to confession whether you had anything to confess or not," Lowell recalled. "If you didn't have anything, you'd make something up."

On Memorial Day, the Wigfield family would journey to Artemus, Pa., their father's homeplace, for a picnic and swimming in a pond there.

"We always placed flowers on the graves of both sides of the family," Dean said of that holiday.

Flowers were a big part of Dorothy's life and just last year, daughter-in-law Lynne, Dean's wife, presented her with a very special gift.

A spiral album with poems and phrases was interspersed with color photographs of the flowers in Dorothy's own garden. It was a treasured gift for her and now will serve as an invaluable memento for her family.

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