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Strother Files took bites out of crime, hazardous weather

May 04, 2008|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 Strother "Lefty" Files, who died April 25 at the age of 78. His obituary was published in the April 27 edition of The Herald-Mail.

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - There often are surprises for family members when someone passes away.

For Dean Files, the surprise came when one of his aunts found a three-foot stuffed McGruff the Crime Dog in the apartment of his late father, Strother "Lefty" Files.

While Dean knew his father had portrayed McGruff at schools and a variety of functions in Berkeley County, he had no idea he had this stuffed figure.

"My aunt brought it to the funeral," Dean said of the stuffed dog, which was put on display near his father's casket.

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Since Dean's son, Zachary, 12, is Lefty's only grandson, the family has decided that he should get the stuffed dog.

Files, who also was a member of the Berkeley County Deputy Reserves and a bailiff in Berkeley County courts, played McGruff the Crime Dog for a number of years.

Dean said his father really enjoyed the role, even though the costume could get quite warm after a while. He would go to schools, the Berkeley County Youth Fair and a variety of other activities, especially those involving children.

"He liked to make people happy," Dean said.

A sister, Sharlene Files, said her brother was known as "Sonny" to family members growing up. The "Lefty" nickname came about when the 18-year-old left-hander joined the Air Force.

Berkeley County Sheriff W. Randy Smith said Files was a dedicated volunteer who took his own time to work with the sheriff's department.

"I have lots of praise and accolades for Lefty, who always made himself available to help us," Smith said.

Smith was able to clear up the mystery of the McGruff the Crime Dog stuffed figure.

"It was presented to Lefty some years ago through Crime Solvers of Berkeley County," Smith said. "We have one in the office, too."

After a 21-year career in the U.S. Air Force, Files retired with the rank of master sergeant. Dean, now in his 40s, said he was just 3 when his father left the military.

During his Air Force career, Files went to Japan, Korea and Vietnam, where he specialized in ordnance (bomb) disposal.

Once back in Berkeley County, he worked for a number of years with the Berkeley County Schools maintenance department.

During his tenure with the school district, Files often drove snowplows during bad weather.

"Dad could drive anything on the road," Dean said.

When he joined the Berkeley County Deputy Reserves, Files would volunteer to direct traffic and when there were parades in Martinsburg.

He also was a bailiff for Berkeley County courts from 1990 to 2000, Dean said.

Through all of those associations, Files made a lot of friends. Many of them showed up for his April 29 funeral. The pilgrimage from Brown Funeral Home to Rosedale Cemetery had a full police escort, Dean said.

In the funeral procession, there was an officer from either the Martinsburg Police Department, Berkeley County Sheriff's Department or West Virginia State Police blocking traffic and standing at attention as the hearse passed by, Sharlene said.

Files was survived by eight sisters and preceded in death by six other siblings.

There also was a daughter, Theresa, who died in infancy. The remaining Files children - Dean and his older sister, Lynn Lucas - were brought up in Martinsburg. Their parents divorced in the early 1990s.

"He was very strict, and he raised me with a lot of morals," Dean said. His respect for his father led Dean to name his own daughter, now 15, after his deceased sister.

In addition to his children, grandchildren and sisters, Files also left behind a fiance, Sandy Overholser.

"Dad said they were going to be married April 30," Dean said.

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