Throughout her busy life, Connie's family came first

June 03, 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 Corrine Hendrickson Guerrero, who died May 20 at the age of 78. Her obituary appeared in the May 24 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

Growing up in Hagerstown during the Depression and as the oldest of 10 children, Corrine "Connie" Hendrickson Guerrero had to learn early that life doesn't always go the way you plan it.

But recently, as her life was slipping away, Connie was able to keep up much of her legendary pace along with her quest for lifelong learning almost to the end, according to her youngest son, Raul "Lou" Guerrero.

"We were able to keep her at home ... that was what she wanted," Lou said, referring to the home that Connie's father built for her and her three sons in Brightwood Acres in 1962.


Just one year earlier, Connie, who died May 20 at the age of 78, had been living in Germany with her husband, U.S. Army Capt. Manuel Guerrero, and their boys, Manuel, 7, Ramon, 6, and Raul, 4.

"Our father was killed in a helicopter crash in Germany in 1961," oldest son Manuel said by telephone from Texas. The family returned to Hagerstown almost immediately after his death.

At that point, Connie's frugal upbringing, and her ability to "make do" and to take care of others came into play. From then on, she was a single mother supporting her family by teaching school.

Connie had graduated from the then-Towson (Md.) State College in 1952. She met her future husband in the Baltimore area when he was in Officer Candidate School and she was waiting tables to pay off student loans.

They were married in 1953.

Ramon was born in Baltimore, and Manuel and Lou were born in Germany, Lou said.

Their father had joined the Army during World War II, but didn't go overseas until the Korean War.

At first, he drove trucks, but later, Connie's husband joined an aviation company and learned to fly helicopters.

After her husband's death, Connie's life became busy and complicated. But Lou said no matter how much his mother had on her plate, she always had time for family.

That included her late husband's family in Arizona, for whom Connie set aside several weeks each summer for a visit - driving across the country with her three boys in the car.

"She wanted us to have the culture of his family, too," Lou said.

Attesting to that connection, four members of her late husband's family traveled to Hagerstown for Connie's May 25 funeral, Lou said.

Longtime Hagerstown neighbor Barbara Carson said Connie learned to speak Spanish and to cook a variety of Mexican dishes to further keep her linked to her larger family.

"Connie had quite a challenge," Barbara said, quickly adding that her friend was always equal to it. As a neighbor for 38 years, Barbara said she sometimes would help drop off or pick up Connie's sons from wherever they needed to be.

Son Manuel said his mother was the first in her family to go to college. After earning her undergraduate degree from Towson, Connie later received her master's degree from Shippensburg (Pa.) State College.

Connie encouraged her sons to pursue their education as well and to do what made them happy.

Manuel went to the University of Arizona, staying with his grandparents while he was studying there.

Lou has held a number of jobs over the years, and currently works in sales with Tristate Electronic Manufacturing Co. in Hagerstown.

"I work for a man whom my mom taught," he said proudly.

Connie's teaching career in Washington County included Woodland Way and Williamsport elementary schools, Boonsboro Middle School and Head Start.

Ramon graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1976, and later retired as a major in the U.S. Marine Corps. As a member of Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 (HMXI), Ramon flew dignitaries, including two presidents, Pope John Paul II and Margaret Thatcher, to name a few.

With both of his brothers living in Texas, Lou said he would stop by his mother's house every day to see how she was doing. And mostly she was doing well.

"I got involved with some of her things," Lou said, noting she was active in a number of organizations as well as playing bridge.

He said he is going to miss those daily visits and their talks.

But Lou and his brothers never will forget the lessons she taught them, both by word and by example.

"When I was a teenager, Mom told me to make sure I liked the person I saw in the mirror each day," Manuel said. "I always remember that."

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