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Hanna Poffenberger

May 23, 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 Katherine Hanna "Kate" Poffenberger, who died May 16 at the age of 94. Her obituary was published in May 18 edition of The Herald-Mail.

WILLIAMSPORT -- When Jerry Knode was a youngster, he remembers his mother taking the trolley from Williamsport to her job at Montgomery Ward in downtown Hagerstown.

"She was earning 29 cents an hour then," Jerry said.

Two days after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, Hanna Knode (Poffenberger) heard there was an opening at Fairchild Aircraft north of Hagerstown.

Hanna went there. When she came home, she had good news.

"When Hanna announced she had the job and it paid 50 cents an hour, her father told her she had it made," said Jerry's wife, Joan.

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Hanna stayed with Fairchild until her retirement in 1977.

During those years, Hanna was a flight test instructor with the task of getting the paperwork of the plane ready with all of the reports leading up to final assembly, then to the hangar.

Family members came to think of Hanna as a true "Rosie the Riveter," as many women who worked in wartime aircraft industries were called in those days.

An attractive woman with a willowy build and hypnotic eyes, Hanna also was called into service to pose for photographic layouts for Fairchild during the industry's heyday.

In March 1943, her picture graced the cover of Fairchild's Pegasus magazine as she crouched on the wing of a plane armed with a pencil and notepad, checking out the plane for its delivery to the war zone.

During the war years, Hanna even volunteered with the Civil Air Patrol, as if her work at Fairchild wasn't enough to support the war effort.

Jerry and his older brother, George "Bus" Knode, went to live with their grandparents when their mother and father divorced.

"Our mother had an apartment downstairs while she was working," Jerry said. "We saw her rarely, so it was lucky we had her parents."

Still, Jerry remembers she could be a lot of fun, but she was strict in her upbringing techniques. She insisted on limits for her sons' behavior during their formative years, Jerry said.

There was a second brief marriage that didn't work out. Then in the late 1950s, Hanna met Cletus Elwood "Boots" Poffenberger, who had been married before, but had no children.

Poffenberger, who also was a Williamsport native, had made quite a name for himself in the world of baseball.

"I don't know how they met, but they came home for him to meet the family," Jerry said. "I was a teenager then."

Married in 1959, Boots and Hanna were a couple for 40 years until his death in 1999.

Jerry said he and his brother went hunting with Boots.

"We had a lot of fun together," he said.

Joan and Jerry were married in 1964. She said Boots and Hanna loved to party.

"They had a cabin along the Potomac River," Joan said. "A lot of fish were cooked there."

Boots was a standout in professional baseball as a pitcher from 1935 to 1942. He played in Virginia, West Virginia and Texas before he hit the major leagues with the Detroit Tigers and Brooklyn Dodgers.

Hanna had a favorite memory she enjoyed sharing with friends -- a chance encounter in May 1963 with then-President John F. Kennedy on the streets of Williamsport.

It seems Hanna was going to catch a bus to go to the dentist when she looked up the street and saw a group of people heading down Conococheague Street in her direction.

Kennedy approached her, and a picture was snapped at the moment she shook his hand.

"Mom asked him where his lovely wife was, and Kennedy told her he had given her the day off," Jerry said.

After her retirement from Fairchild, Hanna kept active with her family and her garden. The view of her flower garden from the kitchen window of her Williamsport home was described as a peaceful and entertaining sight.

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