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Family and so much more

For Helen Hamburg, getting to her grandson's graduation was a must

For Helen Hamburg, getting to her grandson's graduation was a must

June 17, 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 Helen Mae (Cave) Hamburg, who died June 5 at the age of 79. Her obituary appeared in the June 7 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.




In January, Helen (Cave) Hamburg got some discouraging news from her doctor about her health. But as was her custom, Helen's first reaction wasn't so much about her own mortality, but her fear that she would miss her grandson's graduation from dentistry school in May.

"She made it ... she was determined," said Helen's only daughter, Cindy Brezler.

On oxygen and medications, Helen made the trip to watch Brian Motz cross the stage at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry's graduation ceremony.

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Helen died in Cindy's arms on June 5 at the age of 79.

Always caring and never idle, Helen spent the Saturday before her death knitting a comforter for a Mennonite organization in Marion, Pa., which in turn sends them to struggling countries around the world.

"Mom was always doing something for somebody," Cindy said.

In addition to the comforters, Helen stuffed envelopes for REACH, an organization both she and her husband were devoted to for many years.

C. Donald Hamburg died in April 2005, and for the past two years, Helen had been adjusting to life without her husband of more than 50 years.

"She was just getting into being a widow when she got sick," Cindy said.

In an e-mail, Terri Baker, executive director of REACH, noted that Helen gave countless hours to the organization over the past nine years and before that - since 1990 - supported the outreach work her late husband did with REACH as a founding member.

"In 1998, when I was pregnant with my second child, she started volunteering one day a week," Terri said. "You name it, Helen did it."

Terri said many people received handwritten thank-you notes from Helen over the years for donations made to REACH, which is an acronym for Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless.

She took great care with those personal notes and the quotes she included in them.

Brian - the new dentist in the family - said he was thrilled that "Me-Me" was able to attend his graduation.

"My grandparents were very interested in education," Brian said.

Every week, Brian said he would get a note from "Me-Me" with inspirational messages of encouragement.

Contacted by telephone, grandson Kevin Motz said he couldn't remember a time when his grandmother didn't have a pile of mailings in her home.

"She was great, always taking me to see the ducks at Rest Haven when I was little," Kevin said.

Losing both of her parents in such a short period of time has been devastating for Cindy and her family.

"My life with my parents was like a fairy tale," Cindy said. "I was their only child ... I went everywhere with them."

Her mother worked as a stenographer and court reporter for local attorneys and judges. She later worked from home on a number of projects, and often took care of a number of children.

Throughout her professional career, Helen always managed to give her time and talents to First Christian Church and REACH.

Helen always remembered the birthdays of family and friends. She kept all of those dates neatly recorded in her daybook, and sent cards on time with personal notes.

"I might not be able to do all she did, but I'm going to try," Cindy said as she leafed through that daybook. "I owe her that."

In a letter to her parents written after her mother's death, Cindy said she feels like a little lost lamb and is approaching the rest of her life without them feeling a little scared.

"I cherish every memory I have and I know I have a long road ahead," Cindy wrote. "Meeting you both at the end of that road someday will be my prize."

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