Hagerstown man's life is filled with memories

December 21, 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 ...

Joseph Franklin "Frank" Fearnow Sr.

Age: 90

Hometown: Hagerstown

Where would you see Fearnow? Fearnow, who has been a member of St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church since it opened, makes it a point to go to Mass almost daily. Having celebrated his 90th birthday on Oct. 19, he said it gives him a reason to get up in the morning.

Prior to joining St. Ann's, Fearnow was a member of St. Mary's Choir for 27 years. He also was on St. Ann's finance committee.

Fearnow said he keeps pretty busy, but not as busy as the days when he owned Ingram's Men's Shop in downtown Hagerstown. He bought the store in 1954 from Harry Layton Ingram, his brother-in-law, and sold it 21 years later to his son, Frank Fearnow Jr.


In 1977, Fearnow was named top businessman in Maryland. He was recognized for taking a $350,000-a-year business to a store with sales of $1 million.

Things were different then. Fearnow recalls that his best ties sold for $1.50, shirts were $1.95 and $2.95, and the most expensive suit was $59.50.

"Of course, now people don't dress up the way they used to," Fearnow said.

Fearnow was born in Williamsport and grew up in a hardworking family. His parents, William and Nora Fearnow, raised nine boys and one girl.

William Fearnow bought a 200-acre farm in Pinesburg, half of which was timber that they milled, the other half peach and apple orchards. He sold it after several poor years of crops due to weather.

Frank Fearnow attended Williamsport schools until eighth grade, when he went to St. Mary's. He graduated from high school there in 1935.

As the only surviving sibling of his family, Fearnow said his family didn't have a lot of material things. Instead, they were rich in memories and the strength of their family.

"It was beautiful," Fearnow said of his childhood.

While in high school, Fearnow worked part time for the American Store on Franklin Street, which later became Acme Market. At 19, he became the youngest manager for the 4,000-store chain, when he was made manager of the store in Thurmont, Md., after the manager was killed in an accident.

Fearnow met his wife, Terrace Cronise, while on a double date. She was with the other boy, but he got "fresh" with her, she slapped him and the date was over.

Afterward, Fearnow called to ask her out, and she said yes. They were married for 59 years before Terrace's death in 2000.

The couple had three sons, 10 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

In his 30s, Fearnow went to the doctor because he was having pains in his stomach. The doctor said because of his workaholic lifestyle, Fearnow probably would only live to be 60.

"I made up my mind to take better care of myself," Fearnow said, which included buying a home on Lake Heritage in Gettysburg, Pa.

His strategy paid off. On Fearnow's 90th birthday, Father David Shaum from Mount St. Mary's gave a special Mass, then almost 30 friends gathered with Fearnow at the Four Points Sheraton for lunch. The celebration continued a few days later with a gathering of about 60 friends and family from places as far as Colorado, California, Wisconsin, Georgia and Virginia.

"I was really honored those people came so far," Fearnow said. "I feel I've been blessed."

What does Fearnow like best about Washington County? "I think the area in itself is beautiful," said Fearnow, who especially enjoys the trees and mountains. "It's one of the prettiest spots in the country. I've been around, and haven't found any place as beautiful."

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

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