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While husband was on fire calls, Helen Williams tended the stor

July 13, 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 Helen Louise Williams, who died June 28 at the age of 92. Her obituary was published in the June 29 edition of The Herald-Mail.

FUNKSTOWN - In 1933, Helen Smith and John Williams was married in the front parlor of the parsonage of the former Christ Reformed Church of Funkstown on Baltimore Street - a room that later was to be their living room for 50 years.

"Before Helen was married there, her husband's father had a butcher shop in that same front room," said Helen's brother, Jack Smith.

The family history of that pre-Civil War home continued when Jack and his wife, Jane, lived in an apartment there for a time. And later when Helen's only son, Larry, first was married, he and his wife, Linda, also occupied that apartment.

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It also was in that building that Helen and John owned and operated Funkstown Hardware and Grocery - where Gracie's is now - for more than 50 years.

"Helen and John lived in three different places in Funkstown during their marriage," Jack said. One was above the store and one was next to the store.

For 30 years, Helen's husband was fire chief in Funks-town.

"When the alarm went in, John and the other men who worked in the store would have to go, and Helen would come over and run things," Jack said of his sister, who was 14 years his senior.

In the days before 911, the fire company phone was in the chief's home, Jack said. Before leaving to answer the fire call, John would write the location on a chalkboard on the front porch so the volunteers could drive by and know where to go.

Larry Williams said his mother took all of it in stride, never expressing her fears for her husband, then later for Larry, when he joined the Funkstown Fire Company.

"If she worried, she kept it to herself," Larry said. "You know there is danger, but you don't think about it."

When he was 16, Larry took a job with the Hagerstown Fire Department, retiring a few years ago after 34 1/2 years.

Jack, who also served a long stint as Funkstown's fire chief, said he, too, was encouraged by John to join - fighting fires truly became the family's side business.

Helen lost her husband in 1987, but continued to live in her own home until she had a stroke in February. She died June 28 at the age of 92.

"She lived a good life," Larry said. "Mom had no cancer, no heart disease and was able to keep her house up right until the end."

As an example of her housekeeping prowess, Larry said when the ambulance came to get his mother in February, she was upset because the ambulance personnel tracked snow onto her hardwood floors.

"Helen was in church the day before she had her stroke," said her sister-in-law, Jane.

Confirmed in the Funks-town church in 1933, Helen later became a member of the Church of the Holy Trinity, marking 75 years of total membership.

Never one to sit around doing nothing, Helen read the water meters in Funkstown for several years. Four times a year, she made personal visits to homes and businesses to perform those duties, often crawling around in basements or arranging for homeowners to leave a door open for her.

Beloved by her extended family, Helen always was an integral part of any family gathering.

"Our children just loved their Aunt Helen," Jack said.

Larry said he always will remember how much his mother enjoyed life and her family.

Then there was Helen's fudge. Jack, Jane and Larry all commented on how much they and everyone else in the family loved her fudge.

"She was very particular about it, though," Jack said, recalling how she once threw away a whole batch - despite everyone's protests - when it didn't get hard enough.

So much younger than Helen, Jack said she wasn't living at home when he was growing up because of the difference in their ages.

But Jack said the family got together often. And the store always kept them in touch.

"I worked at the store for Helen and John for 14 years after I got out of high school," Jack said. "They were a couple ... in every sense of the word."

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