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Frances Virginia Ahalt

May 30, 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 Frances Virginia Ahalt, who died May 22 at the age of 98. Her obituary was published in the May 26 edition of The Herald-Mail.

On the surface, Frances Virginia Ahalt's life might have seemed a little ordinary and unremarkable. But that's just to people who didn't know her.

Frances, who never married, grew up on the family farm in Frederick County, Md., and lived there for 87 of her 98 years.

But this visionary -- born in 1911 when the 20th century was new -- sought and acquired three college degrees, taught school for 46 years and was widely recognized as Frederick County's first reading specialist.

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"She was very adventurous," said Marsha Bowers, one of Frances' nieces, who also grew up on the family farm on Picnic Woods Road in Middletown, Md.

Marsha's father, Richard Ahalt, stayed on at the farm with his family. Two other Ahalt sisters also continued to live there.

Built in the 1800s, the farmhouse was large and accommodating, Marsha said. The farm operation was a combination of livestock and crops.

"My dad, Richard, and his brother, George, who didn't live on the property, farmed it together," Marsha said.

As for that adventurous spirit, Marsha recalls it was Aunt Frances who took her to get her ears pierced when her parents turned down her request.

"She always got on the Ferris wheel with us at the Braddock Heights Park," Marsha said.

Melinda Davis, Marsha's younger sister, said Frances was active all of her life and took a lot of interest in her nieces and nephews. She was generous with advice and help when needed.

"When I was little, Aunt Frances took me to get a kitten," Melinda recalled.

In her later years, Frances even took a ride in a hot air balloon.

Frances' brother Maurice, 94, is the only surviving sibling of the 10-child Ahalt family. Maurice said he had just come in from mowing when he was contacted by telephone.

"I remember Frances and I used to ride to school on the milk truck that came to our farm," Maurice said. "It was welcome because it was about 3 miles to school."

In a time in American history when few women enrolled in college, Frances went to Towson, Md., once she graduated from high school.

After two years, she was qualified to teach school. She later completed her bachelor of science degree at the University of Maryland, then earned her master's degree from Syracuse (N.Y.) University.

Frances was recognized in 1990 for her 46 years of teaching elementary education in Frederick County schools, Melinda said. She taught at Harmony, Middletown and Valley elementary schools, and was recognized as the first reading specialist in Frederick County.

In the summers when she was off from teaching school, Frances worked in the garden at the family farm.

"There were usually 10 at every meal," Marsha said. When she wasn't cooking, Frances was canning fruits and vegetables for future meals.

"After she retired, Aunt Frances took trips a couple of times a year with friends, all members of a travel club," Marsha said.

When she was in her 80s, Frances went on an African safari, Melinda said.

"She took a lot of cruises later on, playing bridge with her travel club friends," Melinda said. She also bowled in a league from her church and kept up with many old friends.

"Aunt Frances was a big sports fan," Melinda said. She was especially fond of the Boston Celtics.

She also kept up with family and saved all of the notes she received.

Eleven years ago, Frances moved to the Fahrney-Keedy Home near Boonsboro. Both Marsha and Melinda said she was happy there and made a lot of friends among the staff and residents.

"She always kept M&Ms and nuts in little bags with her and gave them out to people who visited," Marsha said.

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