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Longtime courthouse snack bar proprietor dies at 79

June 04, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

Harold Edgar Churchey, longtime proprietor of the snack bar at the Washington County Courthouse, died Saturday as a result of injuries from an accident one day earlier in the parking lot of Big Lots in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Legally blind since birth, Churchey was 79.

Information from Martinsburg City Police this morning was sketchy, possibly because the department might not have been notified that Churchey died several hours after the accident.

Lt. Glenn Macher said the accident occurred at 4:15 p.m. Friday. He said he was attempting to gather more information this morning now that he is aware Churchey had died.

Just three weeks after the death of Eva Churchey, his wife of 60 years, Churchey was still living in the home they shared in Sharpsburg, according to his twin brother, the Rev. Carroll Churchey.

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"My wife had an eye appointment in Martinsburg on Friday and we asked Harold if he wanted to ride along ... just to get out of the house," his brother said this morning.

After the eye appointment, they were preparing to return home when Harold told his brother he needed a curtain rod so they drove to Big Lots in Martinsburg's North End.

Carroll Churchey said Harold was walking through the parking lot when someone came out of a parking space and backed into him. Harold was knocked down and hit his head on the ground.

"We went to the hospital and he was to have surgery but his brain had swelled," Carroll Churchey said this morning. Harold died on Saturday.

Both Carroll and Harold were born with retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that first reduces the sight to central or gun-barrel vision before taking it away entirely.

"My brother and I first went to the Wilmer Eye Institute in Baltimore in 1946 looking for help, but there wasn't any then," Churchey said in a 2002 interview.

Churchey got work in a factory and then as a dishwasher before the Maryland Workshop for the Blind set him up at the snack bar at the courthouse in 1964. He managed that popular eating spot until he retired in the early 1990s.

In August 1992, Churchey's doctor at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore asked him if he would be interested in taking some tests and undergoing experimental surgery.

"I told him I had nothing to lose," Churchey said in that 2002 interview, understanding full well that the tests would be painful and most likely would not result in him regaining his sight.

Then in 2002, Harold Churchey had an experimental retinal implant placed in his skull to again further the research in the field. It was hooked up to a small camera on a pair of glasses powered by a battery belt.

"While I'm wearing those glasses, I can distinguish day from night," Churchey said five years ago.

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