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A life remembered

February 05, 2006|By MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Late at night after putting her aging parents to bed, Cheryl Durst said she would hear them shouting out "Good night" and "I love you" to each other in the art studio-turned-apartment of her West Virginia home.

"The last thing I would do at night was to take out their hearing aids, which meant they would have to talk loud to hear the other," Cheryl said. But that didn't stop them from reaffirming their love of more than 58 years.

An only child, Cheryl lost her mother, Alverta Durst, on Jan. 26 at the age of 88, just 15 days after the death of her father, Arthur Durst.

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"I loved being an only child," Cheryl said, admitting that dealing with the loss of both parents so close together has been tough. "But I was committed to their well-being, care and comfort."

To that end, Cheryl moved her parents from their Pangborn Heights apartment in Hagerstown to her home last June.

"At first, they were reluctant, but not for themselves - they didn't want to complicate my life," Cheryl said.

Those last few months, even as their health failed, the Dursts enjoyed the beauty of nature outside of the three windows of their daughter's converted studio.

"I put bird feeders there, planted a butterfly garden and often deer would come right up to the window," Cheryl said.

All of his adult life, Arthur was a machinist, first in Pennsylvania, then during World War II in North Africa and Italy, and later when he came home and found work at Fairchild Industries in Hagerstown.

It was there he met Alverta Yohn, a timekeeper at Fairchild. They were married Oct. 10, 1947. Their only child was born a year later.

The first 12 years of her life, Cheryl and her parents lived in Baltimore. They came back to Hagerstown when Arthur began working as a machinist at Mack Trucks, where he stayed until he retired.

"Mom was in real estate when I was young because it gave her the flexibility to raise a child," Cheryl said.

The family lived on Magnolia Avenue when Cheryl was growing up.

While Arthur was working and Cheryl was in school, Alverta would indulge her love of bowling - first duckpin, then mixed leagues in the 1960s and finally, lawn bowling at Pangborn Park.

"Dad was the golfer," Cheryl said.

When Cheryl got older, Alverta went to work at The Bon-Ton, first as a bookkeeper and then in sales.

"Anything that brought her into contact with people was what mom liked," Cheryl said.

Her father never complained about going to work one day in his life, Cheryl recalled.

"When dad was working on experimental engines, he'd come home and tell us all about it," she said. "Mom and I listened to every word because you could tell he was so proud."

A collection of odd-looking calibration tools belonging to her father will remain with her always, Cheryl vowed. She isn't in any hurry to put away their things either, since seeing them reminds her of her parents.

Through the dispensing of medications, personal hygiene concerns and illness issues, Cheryl was aided by Hospice of the Panhandle volunteers, whom she credited with helping her keep her parents with her in her home.

"They treated my parents with respect," Cheryl said. "Mom and dad looked forward to their visits."

One volunteer sat with Cheryl and her mother all through the night when her father was dying, staying awake to be with them.

"His death hastened the end for mom," Cheryl said. "I believe that with all my heart."

At the Jan. 28 memorial service for both Arthur and Alverta at First Baptist Church in Hagerstown, portions of a poem Arthur wrote to her when they first fell in love were read. It was titled "If Only I Could Have You Now" and included passages where Arthur spoke of the "joy of whispering your name" and how "I would never feel alone."

Cheryl said there wasn't a dry eye in the church.

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