Groh Fitzsimmons drawn to museum

September 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...

Katie Groh Fitzsimmons

Age - 36.

Hometown - Williamsport.

Where would you see Groh Fitzsimmons? - As chairperson for the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts 75th Anniversary celebration, Groh Fitzsimmons is looking forward to this weekend when the festivities will kick off. A Festival for the Arts will be held at the museum on Saturday, Sept. 16, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Caricatures, a kid's printmaking center, self-portraits, jewelry making, face painting, and demonstrations by artists are some of the scheduled activities. There will be free trolley rides and balloons, live entertainment by local dance, music and theatre groups, tours of the museum, art and craft vendors, as well as food and ice cream for sale. Pony rides and a petting zoo will be set up at the Hager House.


"There's something for everyone," Groh Fitzsimmons said.

A 1987 graduate of Williamsport High School, Groh Fitzsimmons earned her undergraduate degree in music education and vocal performance from Bucknell University. She met her husband, Brendan Fitzsimmons, while they were both in graduate school at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

They married in 1995, with one year of graduate school left. Not long after their wedding, Groh Fitzsimmons' mother, Barbara Ingram Groh, died.

After graduate school, Groh Fitzsimmons and her husband, whose family is from the New Orleans area, moved to Hagers-town. They bought a house on Oak Hill Drive and set to work refurbishing it.

Since then, they have purchased the house Katie grew up in on Tammany Drive in Williamsport from her father, Vincent Groh, and have done a lot of remodeling to the house. It was the original farmhouse for the surrounding farm.

Upon her return to Hagerstown, Groh Fitzsimmons taught voice lessons and did some studio work, as well as vocal performances. Her love for art came from her mother, who was an art teacher in the county and on the board of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.

Barbara Groh was a board member at the time of her death and Groh Fitzsimmons joined the board to finish out her mother's term, staying on after the term was complete. Groh Fitzsimmons said she has fond memories of going to the art museum as a little girl for Saturday morning art classes and for Sunday afternoon concerts with her parents.

The 75th anniversary kickoff culminates with a Sunday afternoon concert by Anna Singer of Pittsburgh, a great-niece of the founders of the museum.

Some of the events beyond what the museum usually offers - to be held during the museum's anniversary year include four special Maryland Symphony Orchestra recitals, a concert by world famous violin virtuoso Midori and pianist Robert McDonald on Nov. 5, a gala in June 2007, special art exhibitions and a joint trip with the MSO - celebrating its 25th anniversary - to Paris and Amsterdam.

As the mother of two children - Barbara Katherine, 7, named after Katie's mother, and Dalton, 4 - Groh Fitzsimmons feels it's important for children to have a balance between the arts, music and sports. She also hopes to instill in her children the importance of volunteering.

"I'm hoping it helps them understand you have to take care of yourself, but you have to take care of others, too," Groh Fitzsimmons.

She encourages her children to sort through their clothing and toys to be donated to others. Her daughter also grew her hair out for Locks of Love, an idea Barbara had on her own.

Besides the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts board, Groh Fitzsimmons also serves on the Hagerstown Day Nursery board, was the entertainment chairperson for last year's Festival of Trees and has previously been on the board of Girls Inc.

"I do enjoy the museum a lot. I feel I'm helping children's education and the community as a whole. Those are the most fun as a mom," Groh Fitzsimmons said. "It's important for them to be exposed to lots of things."

Hobbies - Groh Fitzsimmons said she still does vocal performances periodically and teaches voice lessons out of her home in the evening. She enjoys playing tennis, skiing with her family, reading and cooking.

A volunteer at Williamsport Elementary School, where Katie once attended and where Barbara is now a second-grader, Groh Fitzsimmons helps students with reading. Not surprisingly, she said she sometimes runs out of time to do all the things she enjoys.

What does Groh Fitzsimmons like best about Washington County? - "It's the best of both worlds. It's a small town place to be, yet close to the city," she said. "The people are wonderful. My husband likes it here because there are seasons. It's not hot all the time."

Groh Fitzsimmons added that having grown up here, many of her friends are still in the area. She likes that it's a close-knit community, with lots of connections among people.

"I think it's a great place," she 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 e-mail

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