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Kreykenbohm lives to teach, learn

June 22, 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 ...

Helen Kreykenbohm



Age - 87.

Occupation - Retired Hagerstown Community College professor.

Hometown - Hagerstown.

Where would you see Kreykenbohm? Kreykenbohm grew up in a home that valued education. Her father, John Zentmyer, was principal at several Washington County high schools, most notably at Hagerstown High School from 1926 to 1946.

She said she was in the unique position of being both a student and a teacher under her father's leadership.

This weekend, Kreykenbohm will be sharing memories of her education as the Hagerstown High School Class of 1936 gathers at the Four Points Sheraton.

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It's been 70 years since the class of about 300 students graduated. Kreykenbohm, who is on the reunion planning committee, said about 80 classmates are still living.

Despite her retirement from HCC in 1988, Kreykenbohm remains an advocate of education. After teaching French at Hagerstown High School, she took a job when the college opened in 1946.

She then took 15 years off to raise her three children, returning to teaching at the college in 1963. Kreykenbohm taught French and Spanish before becoming chairwoman of the Humanities Department, a job she described as the best of both worlds - part teaching and part administrative.

Kreykenbohm said she always enjoyed walking around the beautiful campus and stays connected with the college as a member of HCC's Foundation. She also enjoys being the study leader for the women's study groups, known as circles, at John Wesley United Methodist Church.

"I enjoy that. It keeps the teaching part going," she said.

Kreykenbohm earned her undergraduate degree from Swarthmore University near Philadelphia. She studied at the Sorbonne her junior year in college and returned home a month before war broke out in France in 1939.

She got her master's degree from Columbia University in New York City and met her husband, Bill, while in New York, where he was a law student at New York University.

Helen persuaded her new husband to leave New York City and return to her hometown, where he practiced law. She said he liked the leisurely lifestyle of Hagerstown, and they made frequent visits to New York to visit his family.

Kreykenbohm, the only child of parents who were both only children, "broke the mold" when she and her husband had three children - two sons and a daughter. She said having no aunts, uncles and siblings was too lonely.

One son lives in Falls Church, Va., the other in Wilmington, N.C. Her daughter lives about two blocks from Kreykenbohm and has three children.

Kreykenbohm delights in the educational successes of her own family, especially her grandchildren. The family gathered recently to celebrate the graduation of her youngest granddaughter from North Hagerstown High School.

The party was held at Kreykenbohm's home, complete with a chocolate fountain and tent in the backyard.

Another granddaughter will be a senior at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and is applying for medical school. Her grandson will be a sophomore at North Hagerstown High School.

Kreykenbohm is a life member of AAUW and a member of Fountain Head Garden Club.

Hobbies - Kreykenbohm loves to travel and recently made her fifth trip back to France since her college days. Her son, Bill, and his wife took her to celebrate her May 21 birthday.

"I think it's always a challenge to travel and get along with other cultures," Kreykenbohm said. "That's what I teach - cultures and tolerance. It's a very humbling experience, being immersed in a foreign culture."

She also enjoys gardening, doing crossword puzzles, playing solitaire on the computer, e-mailing and playing "lots of bridge" - with an AAUW group and duplicate bridge at Fountain Head Country Club.

A new hobby for Kreykenbohm is shopping and cooking for meals. Prior to her husband's death in 1979, he did all the cooking.

After her next-door neighbor's wife died, Kreykenbohm eventually persuaded him to start sharing meals with her. She has cooked for John Bogdanski, who just turned 91, and herself for the past two to three years.

What does Kreykenbohm like best about Washington County? "Oh, I just think you grew up with people in high school. You know lots of people," she said.

Kreykenbohm enjoys being close to Washington, D.C., where shopping and matinee shows at the Kennedy Center were favorite activities. At home, she is a regular customer at the Hagerstown Farmer's Market on Saturdays. She also likes the mountains and valleys of the county and said she's sorry to see the farmland disappearing.

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