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He was a lucky man

For 'Pat' McCusker, misfortune frequently led to good fortune

For 'Pat' McCusker, misfortune frequently led to good fortune

March 04, 2007|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 Charles Patrick McCusker, who died Feb. 25 at the age of 62. His obituary appeared in the Feb. 27 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

As Charles Patrick McCusker Jr. was preparing to eulogize his father, he was struck by how often the theme came back to the significant role luck played in the life of Pat McCusker - a life that ended Feb. 25 at the age of 62.

A quadriplegic since 1980, Pat had suffered pain, seizures, multiple operations and loss of employment because of previous physical ailments that began years earlier.

But as Charles pointed out, each of those life-changing events had a brighter side that shaped his father's rich, full life rather than slowing it.


It started when an on-the-job injury in January 1965 ruptured a disc in his back and put Pat in Washington County Hospital.

There, he met Virginia Grimm.

Fresh out of nursing school, Virginia became his wife later that year, then the mother of his two children during their 41-year partnership.

Virginia said they were married at St. Mary's Catholic Church with a cake-and-cookies reception in the Rose Room.

"Then we went to Niagara Falls for our honeymoon, but we couldn't find our hotel," she said.

Pat's "luck" continued when that 1965 back injury forced him to take early retirement from his job as a civil engineer with the State of Maryland.

It was then that Pat had the time to develop his hobby for weather reporting into a satisfying avocation. He also was able to actively participate in the raising of his children - Charles, who was born in 1969, and Christa Anne Hoffeditz, who came along five years later.

As if Pat hadn't had enough injuries and setbacks, he was involved in a near-fatal automobile accident in 1980.

"The resulting paralysis immediately ended years of terrible, debilitating back pain that would have eventually put him in a wheelchair or bed confinement," Charles said.

Virginia said she believes Pat began keeping weather records in 1978, having first gotten into it through his job with the state.

Through the years, Pat volunteered his weather reporting skills to WRC-TV Weather Watchers with Bob Ryan, the National Weather Service and The Herald-Mail.

In all kinds of weather, Pat would wheel himself out to his weather station to gather data. In addition, he often volunteered to teach weather to youngsters at Clear Spring Elementary School and St. Mary's School.

"I'd call in the weather when Pat couldn't," Virginia said, noting she has all those years of weather records at her home.

Virginia said she wasn't sure whether she would continue reporting the weather.

Despite Pat's physical limitations, he and Virginia continued to enjoy traveling throughout their marriage. There were three trips to France, along with excursions to Las Vegas, Chicago and New England.

But family was always at the top of the list for both Pat and Virginia.

Christa said her father was her baby sitter before she went to school.

"I remember how we made peanut butter crackers together," she said.

Now a nurse practitioner in Chambersburg, Pa., Christa said she believes her interest in her choice of career began while she watched a medical program on television with her father.

Christa and Charles said their father attended all of their sporting events, both at St. Mary's and later at St. Maria Goretti High School.

For the last seven years, Pat's "luck" seemed to be running low, but even as his physical condition declined, he was able to enjoy his three grandchildren, who called him Pap Pap.

"He lived for his grandchildren," Charles said.

Charles and his wife, Kristine, are the parents of Eva, 7, and C. Patrick McCusker III, 5. Christa and her husband, Craig, have 11-month-old Isabelle Hoffeditz.

When he lived and worked in Chicago, Charles said he heard a quote about luck that was attributed to a dying businessman.

"Luck does not just happen - it comes to people who are prepared to receive it," Charles said, convinced that his father lived that lesson on how to be prepared for anything that life threw his way.

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