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Longtime snack seller dies after head injury

June 05, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

Harold Edgar Churchey, longtime proprietor of the snack bar at the Washington County Courthouse, died Saturday after being injured in an accident a day earlier in the parking lot of Big Lots in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Churchey, who was legally blind since birth, was 79.

The Martinsburg Police Department responded to Big Lots at 1275 N. Queen St. at 4:16 p.m. Friday, about four minutes after receiving a report that a vehicle struck a pedestrian, according to a press release.

Police said a 21-year-old woman was backing out of a parking spot when the left rear quarter panel of the vehicle she was driving hit Churchey, knocking him to the ground. Churchey was taken to City Hospital, then to Washington County Hospital.

Police said they learned at 6:47 p.m. Saturday that Churchey died.

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 Monday 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, his brother said.

"We went to the hospital and he was to have surgery but his brain had swelled," Carroll Churchey said Monday.

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

The Maryland Workshop for the Blind set Harold Churchey 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 undergoing experimental surgery. Since then, Churchey participated in sometimes painful testing that included an experimental retinal implant placed in his skull in 2002 to again further the research in the field.

Police said the crash remained under investigation, and they are awaiting a final report from the Medical Examiner's officer.

Anyone with information about the incident may call Patrolman S. Spiker at 304-264-2100.

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