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Nadine Mixter

Hagerstown woman overcame tough start to become 'ultimate mom'

August 15, 2010|By MARIE GILBERT
  • Nadine Mixter poses for this picture taken when she was in her early 20s.
Submitted photo,

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs "A Life Remembered." Each story in 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 Nadine F. Burgunder Mixter, who died July 22 at the age of 88. Her obituary appeared in the July 24 edition of The Herald-Mail.

She was no more than 21 years old when the photograph was taken -- a stylish young woman ready to take on the world.

There is no hint at the hardships of her childhood -- one that included losing everything in a flood, including the family home and business and, sometimes, not knowing when she would eat her next meal.

Nadine Mixter wouldn't allow harsh realities to invade upon her determination.

Instead, she graduated from high school in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and headed to Baltimore, hoping the next phase of her life would bring endless possibilities.

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"That was my mother," said Jacqueline Fischer of Clear Spring. "She was a strong woman."

That strength was evident up until her death July 22 at the age of 88 of liver cancer.

It was her second round of cancer, according to her family. Earlier, she had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, underwent 26 radiation treatments and had been declared cancer free. But seven months ago, a routine scan disclosed liver cancer.

That didn't stop Nadine from enjoying life.

She was active until the chemotherapy treatments overwhelmed her body, Jacqueline said.

Nadine was born March 1, 1922 in Wilkes-Barre, the only child of Benjamin and Lulu Burgunder.

"My mother didn't talk about her childhood very much because I think it wasn't very happy," Jacqueline said. "Her parents divorced when she was young, and her father dropped out of her life. When she was little, her family owned a tea house in the Poconos and she had a nanny, so I think they were pretty well off.

"But that all changed when the flood came. They lost everything, and mom went to live with her grandmother, while her mother took off to Chicago to pursue a modeling career."

Often, they only had one meal a day, Jacqueline said. Nadine and her grandmother would go down to a corner tavern, where if you bought a beer for 10 cents, you would get a free sandwich.

"Her grandmother would buy the beer and she and my mom would split the sandwich," Jacqueline said.

Later, while in high school, Nadine lived with some friends. She graduated from Coughlin High School and shortly afterward, decided to move to Baltimore.

"We're not sure why she chose Baltimore," Jacqueline said. "But it was a good choice. It was there that she met my dad, George Mixter."

Jacqueline said her mother worked for Bendix Freeze and was a civilian employee with the Department of the Navy and would stand on the same street corner each day waiting for a bus.

"My father would drive by that spot every day on his way to work and he began to take notice of this young woman," Jacqueline said. "He made up his mind that he was going to stop one day and talk to her. He did, they started dating and eventually married."

The couple lived in Baltimore until 1948, when George Mixter was offered a managerial job with the home improvement company where he was employed. The company was expanding to Hagerstown and the Mixters decided to make the move.

Jacqueline was 2 years old at the time. A brother, Mark, came seven years later and, after moving to a house on Dunn Irvin Drive in Hagerstown, a third child, Wesley, was born.

Nadine went back to work after her daughter was in college and was a parent involvement aide with the Washington County Board of Education at Winter Street Elementary School. She also was a reading aide at St. Mary Catholic School.

Then, tragedy struck. George Mixter died of a heart attack in 1973.

"Dad had no insurance and they still owed a mortgage on the house," Jacqueline said. "Mom was a strong woman. But now, she needed a full-time job and she found it at the Washington County Tax Assessment Office, where she worked for 30 years.

"She loved that job. People were constantly coming in and she loved greeting them and helping them do property searches. She really enjoyed being around people. I don't think she ever met a stranger. That was just her personality."

Despite the many roles she had to juggle, Jacqueline said she was the ideal mother.

"She was involved in PTA, Band Boosters, Athletic Boosters and was at all of our games and concerts," she said. "She was always there for us."

Jacqueline said her mother retired at the age of 80 and would have worked longer if it hadn't been for the long walk she had from her office to a parking lot. Arthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) took their toll walking up a hill each day.

Following retirement, Nadine remained active by volunteering at the John R. Marsh Cancer Center at Robinwood Medical Center and playing bingo.

When the chemotherapy she was taking for her liver cancer proved too much for her body, she lived with her daughter, who provided around-the-clock care.

Jacqueline said the family still struggles with the fact that their mother is gone, but they have wonderful memories.

"Her strength to carry on no matter what happened is something I will always admire," she said. "She took life head-on and always told it like it was."

Jacqueline said her brother, Mark, recently asked their mother why she never remarried.

"She replied that she had so many wonderful years with our dad that she didn't want anybody else," Jacqueline said. "We feel the same way about her. She was the ultimate mom."

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