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Wife says Franklin Rouzer was a good family man

April 09, 2006|By MARLO BARNHART

When the telephone rang, Nancy Williams (soon to be Rouzer) was asked by her future husband if she wanted to go for a ride with him ... to Hartford, Conn. Although it was a rather unusual "date," Nancy said yes.

She later found herself sitting in the middle on the front seat of an ambulance between her beau, R. Franklin Rouzer, and a Maryland State Police trooper as they drove north through New England - to pick up a body and bring it back to the Rouzer family's funeral home in Hagerstown.

"We started back and got lost in New York," Nancy said of her experience from more than 50 years ago. "I also remember we almost ran out of gas once and literally coasted into a gas station."

As bizarre as the occasion was, Nancy said it didn't dissuade her from marrying Franklin in 1951.

On April 2, Franklin died in the living room of the couple's home since 1958, which had been reconfigured to deal with his nearly yearlong illness. He was 81.

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The scion of a Hagerstown funeral home family dynasty dating back to the 1800s, Franklin went into the business hesitantly, his wife said.

"Franklin loved electronics," Nancy said. "That's what he did in the service, and he found it challenging and fascinating."

A U.S. Navy veteran, Franklin served as an aviation electronics technician during World War II.

But when he came home from the war, Franklin enrolled at the Indianapolis School of Mortuary Science and went to work at the Suter-Rouzer Funeral Home (now the Gerald N. Minnich Funeral Home, Bryan Kenworthy, at 305 N. Potomac St.).

Franklin and Nancy's first meeting was a little odd, she said.

"I was in my third year of nurse's training at Washington County Hospital doing a stint in obstetrics when we were introduced by a Maryland State Police trooper," Nancy said.

Though she doesn't remember now, Nancy said she figures Franklin was at the hospital after transporting a patient there.

In the early 1950s - before there were emergency medical technicians operating ambulance companies - there were two ambulances in Washington County, and both were run by funeral homes, Nancy said.

"In our dating years, I went on a couple of ambulance runs when Franklin was on call," Nancy said.

After their marriage, Nancy continued to work as a registered nurse until their oldest son, Steven, was born in 1952. A daughter, Carol, arrived in 1954, and the youngest, Paul, was born in 1960.

Two years later, Franklin made the break from the funeral home and eagerly pursued his electronics career, first with Sears and later with Spicher's Appliances & Electronics, where he worked for 25 years until he retired.

"Franklin drove a truck and went on calls," Nancy said. "He was much more content with this job because he was so good at it."

Even after he retired, regular customers would continue to call Franklin to see if he would take care of their electronics repair needs.

Aside from his work, Franklin also was a very good family man, Nancy said.

"When I went back into nursing, I worked a night shift, so Franklin would get the two older children ready for school while Paul, the youngest, was still toddling around," she said.

When Nancy needed to get some sleep, Franklin would take care of the children so she could rest up for her next night shift.

Now that Franklin is gone, Nancy said she will remain active in the work of Zion Lutheran Church in Williamsport, as well as parish nursing in Washington County.

"I'm also active in Hearts 'N Hands Quilting and I love to walk," Nancy said.

She and Franklin used to walk three miles a day, mostly at Valley Mall.

"We made a lot of friends and I will be keeping up with that," she said.

Diabetes - which Franklin was able to control without medication - didn't slow him down. It was only in the last months of his final illness that Franklin was unable to walk long distances.

With her children now living in Owings Mills, Md., Tennessee and Minnesota, Nancy said she will be getting used to living alone for the first time in her life.

"It's different living alone, but I'm confident that I'll be fine," she said.

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