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John Kreigh Sr.

March 28, 2009|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 John Franklin Kreigh Sr., who died March 17 at the age of 83. His obituary was published in the March 19 edition of The Herald-Mail.

John Kreigh Jr. and his sister, Cindy, grew up pronouncing their last name "Cray." But in other parts of Washington County, their father, the late John Franklin Kreigh Sr., was known as John "Creek."

"Sometimes, people wouldn't recognize the name pronounced the way we pronounce it," John Jr. said.

John Sr. was a youngster in the Clear Spring area, where the name was definitely "Creek." An only child, he grew up along U.S. 40 and from a very early age, he did odd jobs at Long's Camp, a restaurant, gas station and set of cabins where the Old 40 West Tavern now stands.

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Both John Sr. and his mother contracted typhoid fever and although they recovered, they found it necessary to move to Boyd Road closer to Clear Spring, where an uncle had a farm.

As a teen, health problems continued to affect John Sr.

"When dad was 16, he went to a game, and the next day, he couldn't move out of his bed," John Jr. said.

The diagnosis was polio, which kept him in bed for a year and resulted in his graduation from high school a year late with the class of 1944.

Even walking with a limp for the rest of his life, John Sr. worked at M.P. Moller, Fairchild and Mack Trucks. The limp didn't stop him from hunting or riding a bicycle either.

He also managed to attract the attention of Joyce Palmer when they both were working for Fairchild in the mid-1950s.

"John worked at Fairchild Plant No. 1 and I was at the main plant as a keypunch operator," Joyce said.

A Chewsville girl, Joyce later moved to Smithsburg with her father, a welder with the Western Maryland Railway, and her homemaker mother.

"John and I met through mutual friends," she said.

On their first "date," he followed her home from the Clear Spring American Legion and found her parents pacing in front of the window awaiting their arrival.

"He was tall and good looking, as well as nice and considerate," Joyce said.

They were married in 1955 after a series of dates to the movies and Richardson's Drive-In.

Joyce continued to work at Fairchild and later at Mack Trucks. The couple's first child, Cindy, was born in 1957. Cindy and her brother, John Jr., both grew up in the Cedar Lawn home where Joyce still lives.

"Dad would walk me around to show me there was nothing to be afraid of," Cindy said. There also were trips to the park, and as Cindy and her brother grew, there would be the nightly checking of homework.

They agreed they felt safe and cared for when their father was around. The feeling continued into their adulthood and is one of the things they say they will miss most.

Family vacations in the summer centered around the annual two-week shutdown at Mack Trucks. Cindy and John Jr. both said they often would spend that time in Ocean City, Md., where they ran into many other Hagerstown Mack Trucks families on vacation.

Cindy works at First Data, while John Jr. is in his 27th year with the Hagerstown Police Department.

As they reached adulthood, both of John Sr.'s children learned their father not only was special to them and their mother, but also to his many friends and co-workers.

Most agreed if John Sr. had been around for his memorial service, he would have been humbled by all of the nice things said about him.

"The people he worked with all said dad was a good supervisor ... that they had their jobs because of him," Cindy said.

But when those nice things were said when he was around, John Sr. would counter his colleagues by saying they made him look good, not the other way around.

Bob Simmers told the family he wanted to talk about his longtime friend at the March 21 funeral. He wanted to make sure everyone knew how much John Sr. had meant to him in his life.

"John made me feel like a million dollars," Bob read to the gathering of friends and relatives.

But more importantly, John Sr. made him feel like a member of the Kreigh family ... however the name was pronounced.

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