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Harne a mother of note

8 children recall her foods, hugs and saxophone with fondness

8 children recall her foods, hugs and saxophone with fondness

September 30, 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 Ruth Louise Willard Harne, who died Sept. 15 at the age of 93. Her obituary appeared in the Sept. 17 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.




There weren't many things that Ruth Willard Harne couldn't or didn't do during the years she was raising eight children, farming, cooking and doing countless other household chores.

But in all those years, she didn't drive and never had a driver's license. Her son Howard said that probably was a good thing.

"Once, dad asked mom to help him move the Model T Ford," Howard said. "She hit the wrong pedal and pinned dad between two trees. He wasn't hurt though."

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Ruth died Sept. 15 at the age of 93.

"She had me at 17," said Donald, her oldest child. "The rest came a couple of years apart."

Early family memories were of living by the Edgemont Reservoir - playing in the woods, the meadows and orchards and along the railroad tracks.

"I remember the engineers tooted at us when they went by," her son Paul said.

Ruth and her late husband, Lee, treated all of their children the same, Paul said. Two of them - Paul and Gene - even became pastors, but that was no guarantee of special treatment.

"We scored no points for that," said Gene, who pastors at the Hancock Church of God. Paul's church is the Virginia Avenue Church of God.

Son John concurred that their mother lavished her love on all equally.

"She would also grab the grandchildren and pull them in - you knew you'd been hugged," John said.

When Ruth poured soda for eight children or scooped ice cream for them, all got equal portions.

Music also was a common thread running through the Harne family. One of Ruth's grandsons played the family saxophone at the funeral while a granddaughter "signed" the song, oldest daughter Helen Dagenhart said.

"Our mother learned to play that saxophone her brother-in-law bought her in the 1940s," said daughter Nancy Sell. Over the years, all of the Harne children played that instrument.

Nancy said their father played in a group called The Harmony Band. It was in that arena that Lee Harne and Ruth first met.

As a young girl, Ruth saw her future husband playing drums with that group.

"She said she liked his uniform as well as what she heard," Nancy said.

They soon married and began a family.

All of the Harne children were born at home. Paul recalls going to their grandparents' home for a day and when they came home, there was a new baby.

As the oldest child, Donald often was tasked to take the younger children to the grandparents on those occasions. Once, he got confused and took them to the wrong grandparents, he said.

Paul said he remembers his mother always being in the house.

"She fixed us buckwheat pancakes before we went for the bus to school," he recalled.

Many memories centered around food - the pies, cakes and cinnamon buns she baked and sold at her stall at the Hagerstown City Market for years.

Ruth still was making and canning homemade relish and sauerkraut into her 80s.

"When mom was canning peaches, it was my job the pitch the rinds," Gene said. "I would always get a hunk of peach to eat if I stood there."

Paul said his mother often would make sandwiches or give a whole pie to hobos riding the trains near the Harne home. She also fixed a holiday plate for two older men who lived alone, Nancy said.

But when asked for a favorite childhood activity, most of Ruth's children agreed that it was sitting around the family table making hundreds of Christmas wreaths to sell each year.

"Some of us gathered the pine branches, some cut them and others wrapped them, but mom actually made the final wreaths," Nancy said.

Ruth would then sell them. Charles Town (W.Va.) Races & Slots was a big customer over the years, Howard said.

Ruth's love of family extended beyond her immediate family. Daughters-in-law Shirley and Dee said they felt welcomed immediately and were told to call her mother.

Donald's wife, Pam, was the first daughter-in-law. A Southern girl, Pam drew all of the relatives to see her when she arrived.

"Most can't remember Pam not being a member of the family for the past 55 years," Helen said.

Through all the years, the Harne family had what they called "family altar" every morning. Those times were particularly solemn when three of the sons - Paul, Donald and John - were in the military, Paul said.

In their retirement years, Ruth and Lee lived in a home on Stottlemyer Road that Donald built for them. They were living there in 1998 when Lee died.

For the past four years, Ruth lived with her son Howard and his wife. During that time, Helen said the family drew closer.

To the end, it was all about family.

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