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Ellen E. Welty Resh

December 12, 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 Ellen E. Welty Resh, who died Nov. 29 at the age of 93. Her obituary was published in the Dec. 1 edition of The Herald-Mail.

On a visit once with her oldest daughter, Sharon Hughes, in Florida, Ellen Resh surprised family members when she took a fast ride on a speedboat in a river.

"Mom said she was scared, but she loved it," Sharon said.

That pretty much sums up the pattern of Ellen's life as the wife and partner of the late Jimmy Resh. Together, they established the Hagerstown Rescue Mission in the 1950s.

A country girl from West Virginia, Ellen married Jimmy Resh on June 10, 1939. They began raising a family that eventually numbered four daughters and one son.

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The Resh family was living a comfortable suburban life when Jimmy decided to leave a well-paying corporate job and start a mission in downtown Hagerstown for lost men who often were undesirable, homeless, alcoholic and lacking a spiritual life.

Sharon said she was 14 when her father heard about a "rescue mission" concept and came to the dinner table to tell his family that he had been called to start one in Hagerstown.

"Mom supported him from the start," Sharon said.

So in the early 1950s, Jimmy and Ellen moved their family from their comfortable home to the second floor of an old dance hall near Jonathan Street in Hagerstown.

The Resh family's new address was 108 Jail Alley.

"Dad was totally committed," daughter Dorcas Black said. Apparently, there was a lot of criticism directed at Jimmy and Ellen from some Resh family relatives.

In those early years, Ellen busied herself raising her five children while fixing up the family's small apartment. All the while, she also was cooking for the men who were living at the mission.

"She was one with her family and one with the mission," Sharon said.

Jim, Ellen's only son, described his mother as quite a lady. Just before her funeral, Jim came across a poem that he said could have been written for her.

"It talked about how everything is between you and God, and that was mom," Jim said. He said he never knew anyone more devoted to faith and family than his mother.

In those early days at the mission, the Resh girls would come down from the apartment to sing hymns for the men. They also opened the doors of their own small apartment to a number of homeless women who couldn't stay in the all-male mission.

Despite her busy life, Ellen always was there when the Resh children came home from school, taking care of her little brood.

"I don't know how she did it, but she was the most unselfish person I ever knew -- a real Christian," daughter Laurel Walker said.

In her later years, Ellen often was visited by her family as they kept her company and took care of her needs after Jimmy died in 1996.

"Every morning, I made her breakfast," Laurel said. "And when I left, she'd always tell me to be careful ... it's a jungle out there."

Daughter Becky Shank, whose husband, Sonny, now is the mission director, did the cleaning for her mother.

"When I'd find a bug, she'd tell me to take it outside" instead of killing it, Becky said. "Mom told me the bug had a right to live, too."

A favorite family story involved Jimmy's efforts to trap squirrels that were abundant around the family home. Puzzled, Jimmy always would find the traps had been tripped, but were empty.

"That's because mom later admitted she would let the squirrels out," Laurel said.

Becky said since Sonny came on board as the mission director, she has had a taste of what her mother felt over the years.

"This ministry can be overwhelming," Becky said.

When that happened, Becky said she would go to her mother. Only then did she realize she never had heard a complaining word from her in all of the years the mission has been in operation.

"Mom would always say you can't get out of this world without a little pain and suffering," Dorcas said.

Sharon said her mother never curtailed her nightly talks with God.

"I'd hear her voice from her room and she'd be praying with all her heart to God," she said.

In her later years, Ellen still tried to get to the mission every day to contribute as best she could. She had her own table in the clothing sorting room, where she sat for hours and priced items for sale in the thrift shop.

After mobility became a problem, the men in the mission built a ramp for her to the sorting room. Later, when she couldn't make it in, her daughters would take things to her home for her to work on.

"On Nov. 21, just eight days before she died, mom came in to help with the Christmas bazaar run by the Ladies Auxiliary," Becky said.

Three days later, Ellen was the guest of honor at her 93rd birthday party.

Active to the end. That was Ellen Resh.

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