Tragedies didn't stop 'Sis' from looking out for others

December 17, 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 M. "Sis" Randall Anderson, who died Dec. 10 at the age of 89. Her obituary appeared in the Dec. 11 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

Although her life was filled with tragedies, Virginia M. "Sis" Anderson never let them get her down, and she labored long and hard to better things for others.

"Mom was always sorry I had to grow up alone," said her daughter, Carolyn Jacobs Barkdoll.

Sis had four daughters - Virginia died in 1940 as an infant, Suzanne died in an accident in 1955 at the age of 14, and Theresa lived just one hour after her birth.


"She survived it ... she was tough," Carolyn said of her mother, who died Dec. 10 at the age of 89.

Family and friends gathered Thursday at the Western Enterprise Fire Co. after the funeral and burial. The choice of the site was easy since Sis was one of the founding members of the fire company's auxiliary.

Gloria Schaffer, current president of the auxiliary, said Sis was like a staple to the auxiliary's good works, always willing to help.

That all started with her marriage to Richard Anderson in 1948. They lived on Washington Avenue, and were familiar with the fire company because of its proximity and because her father-in-law was a paid driver for the fire company.

"We joined in 1980," said Sis' cousin, Phyllis Fridinger. "We raised money through feeds, we went to Hager Fest and sold food, etc."

Phyllis said all those fundraisers paid for the very hall that was the setting Thursday for the gathering of Sis Anderson's family and friends.

"How appropriate," Phyllis said.

Born and raised on Elizabeth Street, Sis was taken out of school when she was 15 years old - at the height of the Depression - because the family needed the income.

"She went to work at the Hagerstown Shoe Co. making $1.50 a day," Carolyn said.

Sis married young. She and her first husband, Woodrow Jacobs, had three daughters, but the marriage didn't last. He died in 1987, Carolyn said of her father.

The marriage to Richard Anderson lasted nearly 50 years before he passed away.

"We grew up poor, but we always had clean clothes," Carolyn said, remembering how she came home from school one day in tears because other children had made fun of her.

Her mother told her that she was as good as anyone else and not to forget that. Carolyn said she never did.

Though there wasn't much money, Carolyn said there was a lot of fun.

"When I was 8, we lived on Mont Valla Avenue," Carolyn said. "The Victrola was on, and she was teaching up to do the Charleston when she kicked so high, she hit the chandelier with her foot."

After retiring from the Hagerstown Shoe Co. in 1983, Sis spent the next 23 years doing good works for her church, St. Mary Catholic Church, and for the Western Enterprise Fire Co.

"She also took care of one of my sons until he was 6 while I was working during the day," Carolyn said.

Phyllis said Sis' strong points were her friendliness and her generosity, both to people and to all kinds of animals.

"She kept a big roasting pan on her back porch filled with cat food, put out seeds for the birds and peanuts for the squirrels," Phyllis said.

In the last few months of Sis' life, Phyllis said she spent a lot of time with her cousin.

"Sis told great stories and always made me laugh," she said.

Barbara and Charlie Sullivan knew Sis from the neighborhood, and described her as a sweet lady who lived a nice, long life.

"We would go camping, and she loved jokes," Charlie said, noting Sis had a serious side, too. "Being a mother to Carolyn was her career."

With a smile, Gloria shared a story about one of Sis' passions - cookies.

"She'd always wait around after our functions to get the leftover cookies," Gloria said.

It was only in the final two years that Sis began to slow down, Carolyn said.

"We were working the St. Mary's rummage sale when mom said she was tired and wanted to go home," Carolyn said. Devoted to that charitable cause benefiting St. Mary School for 10 years, Sis never missed working a sale until her health began to fail.

Carolyn said her mother's love, generosity and wisdom about life are the gifts she always will treasure.

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