Robert E. "Buzz" Manley was devoted to family, friends and firefighting brothers

August 30, 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 Robert E. "Buzz" Manley, who died Aug. 26 at the age of 65. His obituary was published in the Aug. 28 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Family and devotion to friends and his firefighting brothers -- that was what Robert "Buzz" Manley held dear in his life.

"He worked hard, played hard and loved to laugh," said Ann Manley, Buzz's wife of 42 years.

They met when Ann Marie Wiebel was just 14 and living on South Prospect Street.

"Buzz was our paperboy and had dated a girlfriend of mine," Ann said of their early acquaintance. "He had fabulous blue eyes."

Four years older, Buzz already had started to chase his dream of being a firefighter. He signed on as a volunteer at Pioneer Hook and Ladder on Franklin Street when he was 18 or 19, Ann said.


The couple married when Ann was 19. A daughter, Beth Manley King, was born in 1968.

After working at Mack Trucks for a few years, Buzz was laid off. It was then that he made the decision to become a professional firefighter in Hagerstown.

"He loved firefighting," Ann said. Except for a couple of minor trips to the emergency room, Buzz managed to escape any serious injuries over the years. He retired in 1999.

"Bobby, as I called him, was intelligent, caring and fun-loving," said C. Kingsley Poole, a friend and former firefighting colleague. "He served for several years as president of the firefighters' union, and I remember him as always being fair and honest in that position."

Poole, who is regional coordinator of the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute, spoke Friday at his friend's funeral.

Richard Hopkins was a battalion chief with the Hagerstown Fire Department when he worked with Buzz. Hopkins now is a training coordinator with the International Association of Fire Fighters -- the very same union for which Buzz headed up chapter activities in Hagerstown for many years.

"He was a good apparatus operator," Hopkins said by telephone from his office in Washington, D.C. "His job was to supply water to people on the hose line -- a vital job which he did well."

But Buzz's firefighting career was just one aspect of his life and loves. He worked hard and he played hard, too.

Whenever Buzz and Ann could get away, they spent as much time as possible in Little Orleans, Md., where they had a second home for 21 years. There, they fished and canoed with friends, their daughter and later, three grandchildren.

Near that second home, Ann said she and Buzz discovered a group of new friends at a pub in Green Spring, W.Va.

"These are the greatest people in the world," Ann said. One of the barmaids they had befriended there called Ann when she learned of Buzz's passing Tuesday.

Over the years, there were fishing trips with friends in St. Mary's County and other vacations, but Buzz always preferred the house in Little Orleans, sitting on the porch and looking at the ridge with the Potomac River just five minutes away.

One memorable road trip was five years ago to Berkeley Springs, W.Va., for an all-day tribute to the late Patsy Cline -- one of Ann's favorite singers.

At that event, Buzz had his picture taken with Charlie Dick, who was married to Cline when she died in 1963.

"Wherever we were, when I heard Patsy Cline on the radio, everything would stop," Ann said. "I would make Buzz dance with me while I sang."

The Willie Nelson version of "City of New Orleans" also sparked impromptu dancing, sometimes in the middle of a road with Buzz and Ann and other couples.

"That was Buzz," Ann said. "He had a big heart and loved to have fun."

Grandchildren Devon, 13, Justin, 12, and Brittany, 10, all called Buzz "Poppy." Justin sat quietly at his grandmother's kitchen table holding onto a hat emblazoned with "Poppy," now a treasured keepsake.

"We did a lot of things together," Justin said.

Beth was trying to put a positive spin on the fact that her father died on her birthday.

"At first, I didn't want it to happen on my birthday," Beth said. "But now, I'm glad to share that day with him -- the day he was released from his pain."

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