YOU ARE HERE: HeraldMail HomeCollectionsFarm

Tritapoe keeps door open to volunteer opportunities

March 13, 2006|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note: There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like...

Name: Dottie Tritapoe

Age: 76

Occupation: Piano teacher and reporter for the Brunswick Citizen

Hometown: Hagerstown

Where would you see Tritapoe? Tritapoe said that throughout her life, as one door closed, another opened. When she retired from Pleasant Valley Elementary School in 1992, after 20 years of service as a classroom assistant and parent-involvement coordinator, the staff asked if she would be willing to teach piano to a few students in the after-school program.

She began with five students at school and now has 40 students who come to her home in Pleasant Valley for weekly lessons, including Tyler Austin, a Boonsboro High sophomore who suggested Tritapoe for this column.


Tritapoe, who has written for the Brunswick Citizen since its inception, prefers to be the one doing the interviewing. She was reluctant to be interviewed because she doesn't think she does any more than others in the community, but agreed because she thinks so highly of Tyler.

"I'm so proud of all my students. I think it's important to work with children and young people, to concentrate on their good points ... ," Tritapoe said.

Tritapoe's success with children began in her own home. She has three grown children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

She grew up in the West End of Hagerstown, where her father worked for the railroad. Dottie's family attended St. Mark's Lutheran Church and she took piano lessons from the church organist.

Tritapoe attended the Old Winter Street School in Hagerstown and went to Woodland Way Junior High when it held students in grades seven through nine.

She had completed one year at Hagerstown High when her father purchased a farm in Yarrowsburg, a dream of his. Tritapoe admits she was devastated and said she thought she was going to the end of the world. Graduating with the Boonsboro High School Class of 1947, she said people were very friendly and helped ease the transition when the family moved to the farm.

Now she can't imagine living anywhere else and said she is blessed to live in Pleasant Valley, which she said some locals call "God's country."

Her children attended Pleasant Valley Elementary and Tritapoe said she always considered it "our school" because her father-in-law sold a portion of his farm to the Washington County Board of Education for the school.

"I guess that's why Pleasant Valley School is so special to us," said Tritapoe, who still volunteers there occasionally.

Even when her children were young, Tritapoe found time to help shape the lives of other youth. She began helping Florence Kaetzel with the Brownsville 4-H Girls Club in 1952 and worked with the group for 20 years.

"We really had some good girls. We had so much fun," said Tritapoe, who added that Kaetzel continues to be a mentor for her.

It was through Kaetzel's sister-in-law, Nina Kaetzel, that Tritapoe started writing for the Brunswick Citizen when it was first published, about 33 years ago. She still writes stories about news in her community and keeps up with other news by reading the Hagerstown and Frederick, Md., newspapers daily.

A member of Brownsville Church of the Brethren, Tritapoe begins every day with morning devotions, asking for help and guidance for the day. She said that helps her accomplish everything she needs to do with a positive attitude.

She was the choir director at the church for 20 years, but gave that up six years ago and is happy as a choir member. She also volunteers as director of Christian education.

Hobbies: Tritapoe does make time for leisure activities, especially spending time with friends and family. She and two longtime friends enjoy playing Scrabble together and go out for lunch to celebrate their birthdays.

While she said she enjoys watching TV and having time to herself, Tritapoe said she'd tire of it day after day and prefers to be involved.

"To me, no job is too small - anything you can do to help out," said Tritapoe, who also is secretary of Pleasant Valley Ruritan. "It's always been a part of my life. When you see something that needs to be done, do it."

What does Tritapoe like best about Washington County? "I guess because I've grown up here," Tritapoe said. She said she used to shop in Frederick, but traffic has gotten so heavy that she heads to Hagerstown instead.

Even though Hagerstown has changed a lot since she was a child, Tritapoe has fond memories of the Halloween parade, shopping in downtown Hagerstown at Christmas and taking the trolley from Public Square to Virginia Avenue for piano lessons.

"It was a great place to grow up in," Tritapoe said.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024, or send e-mail to

The Herald-Mail Articles