Fales always there for her family 'no matter what'

December 24, 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 Sue Elaine Fales, who died Dec. 18 at the age of 69. Her obituary appeared in the Dec. 19 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Pulling up to Lori Williams' home a few nights before Christmas, a visitor could see holiday decorations brightly lighted in the front yard.

One step inside the kitchen door and the smell of sugar cookies was overwhelming, cookies baked by Sue Fales' three granddaughters.

The family came together that night, not to mourn the death of their beloved wife, mother and grandmother, but to celebrate her life.


Sue died Dec. 18 at the age of 69.

"We met at school," said her husband, Bill. "Our first date was a double date to Frederick with the baritone from our quartet."

Educated in the Adventist schools in Washington County, Bill continued to sing in the choir even after he graduated.

"The only reason I did was because she was in the choir," he said.

Bill said he sang a number of solos while in that choir, knowing that Sue would be accompanying him on the piano.

The couple dated for five years, and when Sue was in her senior year of college, they married.

"I was in the Army stationed at Walter Reed in Frederick, and then later at Walter Reed in Washington, D.C., in the medical lab," Bill said.

Having earned a bachelor's degree in nursing, Sue was working at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, Md. The couple had an apartment that was close enough for her to walk to work, Bill said.

"She always knew what she wanted to be, and that was a nurse," Bill said.

Sue retired from Washington County Hospital in 1988 after a 25-year career in nursing.

After the Army, a career in book publishing took Bill to jobs in Berryville, Va., and the old Doubleday Plant in Smithsburg. "I stayed on to close that plant," he said.

Sue's son, also named Bill, said he remembers his mother taking care of him, bandaging his many scrapes and caring for him through bee stings and chicken pox.

"She had a nursing job at home, as well as at the hospital," he said.

That caring went in the other direction, too, as Sue aided both her parents as they aged and needed more and more care.

Sue's daughter-in-law, Julie Fales, and son-in-law, Doug Williams, both said they felt more like Sue's children than in-laws.

"We took trips as a family," Doug said. "I was just as much a part of the family from the start."

Julie felt accepted from the beginning, too, and remembers Sue as thoughtful, caring and considerate.

"She was always remembering us, sending little notes," Julie said. She and Bill have two daughters, Holly, 14, and Amanda, 11.

That little habit of sending notes came back to Sue's daughter. Lori Williams recalled her mother's thoughtfulness and care when she was hospitalized in Virginia during a difficult pregnancy with her only daughter, Megan, now 15.

"She'd sit with me for hours even though I was asleep," Lori said. "Mom was there for me no matter what, and I loved her for it."

Bill and Sue enjoyed their three granddaughters, and jumped at the chance to watch them when they were younger, often changing their own plans so they could.

Lori said she can't remember a time when her mother ever lost her cool, either with her own children or her grandchildren.

Both Lori and Bill said their mother always was home when they got home from school, whether it was from Mount Aetna School or Highland View Academy.

Strong in their Seventh-day Adventist faith, the Fales built a home in the Smithsburg area to be close to the schools.

Pastor Tom Boggess said Sue and Bill were faithful members of the Martinsburg (W.Va.) Seventh-day Adventist Church the past eight years.

Sue was assistant treasurer, and Boggess said although he never saw her do the work, "I know she did it and did it right."

He also lauded her for her volunteer work at CCAP in Martinsburg, where food and other necessities are gathered and distributed to the needy.

Bill said his wife tried to remain active despite the pain she was experiencing with rheumatoid arthritis.

"Doug and Lori celebrated their 25th anniversary this year, and Sue wouldn't miss it," he said.

Surrounded by family, Bill is facing Christmas with mixed emotions and without his beloved Sue.

"She's been a loving wife for 48 years, and I'll miss her dearly," he said at Thursday's funeral service. "Our house is just a house - it took her to make it a home."

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