Retired farmer takes time to enjoy the view

July 19, 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 ...

Charles Shank

Age - 80

Occupation -Retired farmer

Hometown - Hagerstown

Where would you see Shank? - When he isn't busy tending his garden or helping care for his neighbor's beef cattle, Shank enjoys the view from the porch swing of the Cearfoss home he and his wife, June, have lived in for almost 30 years.

Shank said when he was farming their property, he knew he wanted to build a house there because of the site's expansive view of the surrounding area. On a clear day, he said Fairchild, the control tower at Hagerstown Regional Airport and trucks driving past on Interstate 81 are visible.


The home on Wishard Road took four years to build, and used wood and stone that was cleared from the property. The Shanks did most of the interior finishing work themselves, they said.

Shank, a 1943 graduate of Hagerstown High School, grew up on Pennsylvania Avenue, out by Showalter Road. He remembers his father delivering milk in Hagerstown with a horse and wagon.

He attended a one-room school called New Eden, but more commonly referred to as "Rat Hill." Shank said it got the name because the corn cobs stored in the basement to heat the building attracted rats.

A member of the Farm Bureau since he was 18, Shank was the director off and on for 10 years. He did that in addition to raising hay, corn and wheat on about half of the couple's 425 acres and milking 80 cows twice a day, at the peak of his farming career.

"Milk is twice a day, whether you feel good or not," Shank said, adding the job took him about seven hours a day.

The Shanks, who married in 1956, met at a church event. They understand the concept of teamwork, and Charles said June would be out on the tractor while he was milking.

"Yep, I have a good wife," Charles Shank said. "I don't know how I could have had a better wife."

The couple has one daughter and two grandchildren.

Last June, Charles Shank was recognized at Otterbein Methodist Church for teaching Sunday school for 54 years. During his years as a teacher, he taught seventh grade, then adults. The lifelong member said he was touched when one of the youths told him how much Shank had influenced his life.

Hobbies - Shank enjoys gardening, and occasionally goes fishing with his grandson. In his younger days, Shank liked to hunt and go camping.

While most dairy farmers rarely get to take vacations, Shank recalls driving to Mexico City for the couple's honeymoon. Two years later, they traveled on the original Queen Elizabeth ship, and toured 11 countries in Europe.

Another memorable trip was when they drove cross-country with the family's piggyback camper to Seattle, then took a ferry to Alaska, a six-week trip that took them 13,000 miles.

"I was surprised we got away as much as we have," Shank said.

What does Shank like best about Washington County? - "I think it's a very productive county - fruits, grain, timber," Shank said. "You might say it's an all-around county."

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

Photo by Janet Heim

Longtime Washington County farmer Charles Shank relaxes on the porch of his Cearfoss home. Although he considers himself retired, Shank maintains a sizable garden, and helps the farmer on the next property tend his 25 head of beef cow.

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