Definitely not a 'homemaker,' Fehl made her mark in foods and nature

December 03, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Virginia E. "Ginny" Fehl, who died Nov. 18 at the age of 93. Her obituary appeared in the Nov. 22 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

Just before her death, Virginia "Ginny" Fehl made it clear to her family that she had definite thoughts about her obituary.

"She said for us not to call her a homemaker," niece Becky Fuller said. "And she didn't want a funeral service with people moaning over her, either."

No stranger to her aunt's unique way of looking at the world, Becky included several of her aunt's favorite observations in the obituary, such as how she was proud that she had never traveled to a popular Maryland beach resort or eaten in a familiar fast-food restaurant.


Growing up during the Depression, Ginny was 21 when her mother died. Suddenly, she was head of the household that included her younger brother and sister.

Shortly afterward, Ginny moved to a home in Smithsburg with her father and her siblings. She continued to live there until her death Nov. 18.

For 49 of those years, Ginny was married to Alfred Fehl, a college professor who died in 1991.

"We were very close to Ginny," said nephew Henry Allenberg, who added that no one ever called her Aunt Ginny.

For years, Henry said, his dad started each day over a cup of coffee with Ginny at her home.

Becky said her mother always fixed Christmas breakfast at her home in Edgemont, while Ginny traditionally had Christmas dinner at her home.

Ginny's cooking was in the gourmet range, but she didn't believe in measuring, so duplicating her dishes was next to impossible.

And when she got older, Ginny's increasing deafness added to the frustration over her recipes, Becky said.

"I tried once to get a recipe from her over the telephone. I found that I was just yelling, so I got in the car and drove over there," Becky said.

After Ginny was struck by a car in the parking lot of a Smithsburg grocery store in December 2004, Becky went to live with her and was her caregiver until her death.

"Her knee was crushed, and then shortly thereafter, she broke her hip," Becky said.

Although still able to get around with a walker, Ginny was unable to pursue her love of gardening.

Throughout her life, Ginny had spent much of her time in her flowerbeds. She and her best friend, the late Emma Lou Schwagel, often took walks in the woods looking for unusual plants.

"Ginny always carried a shovel in her car and would leap out and dig up any nice specimen she would spot as she drove along," Becky said.

Ginny and "Alf" had no children of their own but doted on their nieces and nephews. When Henry was born, his father was serving in Korea, so he and his mother lived with Ginny and Alf for a time.

Henry said there were farm animals at the house and black raspberries were raised for sale.

"With the exception of worms and caterpillars, Ginny liked all wildlife," Becky said. "She would stand on the upstairs porch and whistle the whippoorwills down to the railing."

Now that Ginny is gone, Becky is trying to decide whether to move back to her own home in Edgemont or stay in the one she shared with her aunt the past two years.

Either way, the memories of the unique person she called Ginny will remain fresh in her mind and in her heart, Becky said.

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