Meinelschmidt at home in the water

March 27, 2007|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 ...

Karen Meinelschmidt

Age: 60.

Occupation: Aquatic director at Hagerstown YMCA.

Hometown: Staten Island, N.Y.

Where would you see Meinelschmidt? Karen Meinelschmidt spends her days in and out of the pool at the Hagerstown YMCA. Her history with the Y dates back to 1962, when she worked as a lifeguard at the Staten Island YMCA.

Since then she has worked or volunteered at Y's in New Jersey, Severna Park, Md., and Hagerstown. She has worked as a lifeguard, swim instructor and aquatic director.


After she and her husband moved to Hagerstown in 1977, Meinelschmidt volunteered for three years at the Y before becoming a paid swimming instructor, then aquatic director in 2001.

Meinelschmidt, who lives in Sharpsburg, teaches eight of the 11 weekly arthritis classes. Her favorite part of her job is teaching water safety to young children.

"My biggest love is the little guys. The 3- and 4-year-olds come in wide-eyed and cautious. In six to eight weeks, they're swimming around the pool," Meinelschmidt said.

She said she's been in Washington County long enough that she's now getting children of students she taught years ago.

"I love what I do. I love teaching the kids," Meinelschmidt said.

Water safety is an important issue for Meinelschmidt, who has volunteered as the water safety chairperson for the Washington County Chapter of the American Red Cross since 1987.

She said not all who take swim lessons will be on the swim team, but everybody should know how to save themselves in the water.

The Hagerstown Y has at least 35 lifeguards and 15 to 20 water safety instructors under Meinelschmidt's leadership. There are 53 preschool and progressive classes every seven weeks - and most fill up, she said.

Meinelschmidt, who runs the public pool in Williamsport, has been a Red Cross certified lifeguard since 1964. Her husband of almost 38 years, Ray Meinelschmidt, is a retired government employee.

He has run the pool on Oak Ridge Drive since 2001, taking over when his wife became aquatic director at the Y. The couple has four grown children - three sons and one daughter - and one granddaughter.

Hobbies: "I cook, bake and cater parties. That's my fun," Meinelschmidt said. "I do all those Wilton birthday cakes that you see."

What does Meinelschmidt like best about Washington County? The Meinelschmidts have lived on an 11 1/2-acre property on Taylors Landing Road in Sharpsburg since moving here in 1977. Their home is one mile from Antietam National Battlefield.

Karen Meinelschmidt said she likes the feeling of open space around their home and the battlefield. She also was pleased with the schools her children went to - Sharpsburg Elementary, and Boonsboro Middle and Boonsboro High schools.

Growing up in New York meant property and space were different.

"I grew up in a town house. To move here and have all this space, with no neighbors on either side ...," Meinelschmidt said.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting story, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024, or send e-mail to

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