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Surprise proposal begins happy family

August 12, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note:B 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 Atlee H. Bussard Sr., who died July 30 at the age of 73. His obituary appeared in the Aug. 3 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

SHARPSBURG - Ellie Ewan was 23 when she had her first date with Atlee Bussard at a steak house on Western Pike, she recalled.

"He was just out of the service and we double dated with Atlee's best friend who had married my best friend," Ellie said.

After a few more dates, Ellie said Atlee told her he wanted to see the Rev. Robert Passarelli, now deceased, to ask him questions about Catholicism - Ellie's religion.

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"The first thing he asked Father Passarelli was how he could marry me in April," Ellie said, noting that she was speechless at Atlee's proposal.

After all, Ellie said, he hadn't asked her yet.

"Atlee asked me later why I was so quiet and I told him that he might have asked me first," Ellie said.

Despite her surprise and annoyance at Atlee's outburst, Ellie said she did say yes. The wedding took place at St. Mary's Catholic Church on April 18, 1959, with a reception at her home afterwards.

Two children and 48 years later, Atlee died on July 30 after a two-year battle with chronic lung disease.

"Atlee bought me a pearl necklace for a wedding present - I got him a musket," Ellie said. A member of the Sharpsburg Rifles, Atlee was a Civil War re-enactor.

The couple's first child, Anne, said she and her brother, Cricket, both wore their dad's Civil War union uniform on Halloween when they were children.

Born in 1962, Anne was Atlee's dollbaby, Ellie said. "He was very proud of her."

An ironworker/welder by trade, Atlee was on a job in West Virginia when his son Cricket was born in 1966 in Hagerstown in the middle of a blizzard.

"I called the motel where he was staying and a woman there yelled up to Atlee - who was working 100 feet in the air- that he had a son," Ellie said.

The Bussard family lived on North Mulberry Street then and that winter when Cricket was born, the furnace failed and Columbia Gas workers had to brave the cold, snowy weather to replace it.

"My husband fed them all steaks," Ellie said.

Atlee was a native of Mount Briar near Keedysville while Ellie was a Hagerstown girl who had worked as a nurse at Washington County Hospital. They moved to Sharpsburg in 1973.

Employed as a skilled ironworker, Atlee retired in 1996. For years he maintained a small shop in Sharpsburg where he made repairs for many people in the area.

"He welded the town clock in the square in Sharpsburg, the park picnic tables and repaired the ironwork entrance to the cemetery," Ellie said.

His life wasn't all work though. When his children became active in scouting, Atlee volunteered by mowing the former Girl Scout Camp CoHeLo near Keedysville.

He and Ellie also took Girl Scouts camping.

"Then daddy got into the Bester PTA and the Boy Scouts," Anne said.

Her son, Matthew, 7, was Sparky to his grandfather.

"I call my daddy's father Pappy with the dogs," Matthew said. "I called my other grandfather Plain Pappy (Atlee) because he didn't have dogs."

Matthew said he loved watering flowers, getting the mail and the newspaper for Plain Pappy.

Ellie said Atlee was a big admirer of the late Patsy Cline, and for many years belonged to the Always Patsy Cline fan club. The group met annually in Winchester, Va., and held a dance.

"When we were dating, we used to go see her at the Fairplay Carnival," Ellie said. Then later their daughter Anne married Brian Parkinson, a cousin of Cline's husband, Charlie Dick.

Over the years, Dick kept in touch with Atlee, Ellie said. She too had met Dick in Nashville many years ago.

"We got flowers from Charlie Dick for Atlee's funeral," Ellie said.

The Osborne Funeral Home in Williamsport was filled with flowers and with Atlee's many friends, numbering more than 300 and spilling into the lobby.

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