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William R. Price

July 09, 2011|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Bill and Jean Price are surrounded by their four children in this recent photo. In the front, from left, are Krista Repp, Bill and Jean Price, and Karen Davis. In the back are Jim Price and Heidi Harshman.
Submitted Photo

As a teenager, Jean Poffenberger used to sit on her family's front porch in Funkstown, waiting for William "Bill" Price to walk by on his way home from Funkstown Market, where he worked. His family lived about nine houses up from Jean's.

Jean said she asked Bill, who was two years older than she was, to a Y Club dance. After a four-year courtship, the couple married in 1957, the beginning of a happy 54-year marriage.

Bill was a 1953 Hagerstown High School graduate and earned degrees from Hagerstown Junior College and Shepherd College, then a master's degree from Shippensburg State College, now Shippensburg University, in 1968.

Bill served from 1955 to 1959 in the U.S. Air Force, which took him to Missouri. After their marriage, Jean went to Missouri with her husband, but found it hard to make ends meet and she returned to Washington County to work.

The couple first lived with Jean's mother in Funkstown, then in a house on Edgewood Drive before moving into "a big old stucco house in Funkstown."

"We kept moving up," said Jean, as their family grew to include four children.

They built a house in 1978 in the older part of St. James Village, when their youngest child and only son, Jim, was 5. That house recently had been sold and the couple planned to move to Greenwich Park. Instead, Jean ended up making the move alone, not long after Bill's death.

Bill's 33-year career in education began at Conococheague Elementary School, where he was a sixth-grade teacher. He then became a teaching principal at Dargan School, a two-room school, and Downsville Elementary School, before serving as principal at Hancock, Pangborn, Williamsport and Clear Spring elementary schools.

"He was a leader, such an administrator. It was in his blood to organize," oldest child Karen Davis said.

Bill was recognized as Maryland State Principal of the Year in 1992.

Much to the chagrin of his children, Bill was well-known in the community. Bill did not work in the schools his children attended, though.

"I still can't go anywhere where someone doesn't say, 'You're Bill Price's daughter, aren't you?'" middle daughter Krista Repp said.

"It made it hard to get in trouble in school," son Jim Price said.

Trinity Lutheran Church in Hagerstown has been a constant in the family's lives. Bill and Jean were married there; their children were baptized, confirmed and married there; and seven of 13 grandchildren were baptized there.

Bill started attending church at Trinity when he was 12. His father recently had died and he had been invited to go to church there. Jean became a member after she married Bill.

Boy Scout Troop 10 is sponsored by the church. Jim, who earned the rank of Eagle Scout, said his father was involved with the troop, serving as committee chairman. Five of nine grandsons were involved in Scouting and the oldest grandson is an Eagle Scout from Troop 10.

Jim said his father, who also was a Boy Scout but didn't advance very far, went on all of the camping trips. He remembers on their first camping adventure his father poured hot grease into a garbage bag, lesson learned and never repeated.

The Scouts tried to set up their tents a good distance from Bill's because of his snoring, Jim said.

Jean said Bill and several other Scout leaders became good friends and called themselves the Coffee Cup Patrol.

"They had the best time on camping trips, smoking cigars and eating steak," Jean said, adding that the men socialized outside of Scouts.

"The leaders always ate better than us," Jim recalled.

Jim and Bill were tapped at the same time for the Order of the Arrow Ordeal. Order of the Arrow recognizes Scouts and adult leaders called Scouters who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives, according to the Boy Scouts of America website.  

After retiring from Washington County Public Schools in 1994, Bill became Trinity Lutheran's parish administrator, working under Pastor David Buchenroth.

"My philosophy is, we're put on this earth for a life of service," Buchenroth said. "I don't know if that was his philosophy, but he lived it. He lived his life serving other people and found enjoyment in doing that."

Bill volunteered with the Literacy Council of Washington County and Trinity Lutheran's food pantry, both located in the church, and belonged to several community organizations.

His church involvement included serving as president of the church council several times, teaching Sunday school and working with the youth group.

Bill's children remember him as easygoing and soft spoken, but occasionally heard what Krista refers to as "the voice of God, spoken with just that authority" when they occasionally needed discipline from their father.

"You didn't want to disappoint him," Karen said.

"He had such a calm temperament," Jean said. "All 54 years, especially with me — bless his heart — he probably put up with more from me ..."

Her parents "were always holding hands, even in the car," said youngest daughter Heidi Harshman.

Bill always was up for board games and card games, never complaining when his children requested a lengthy game of Monopoly. Heidi remembers entertaining herself on a car trip by putting barrettes in Bill's hair.

"He'd do anything for anybody," Krista said. "He could answer any question, find out anything."

As a family, the Prices traveled most summers to Missouri to visit a couple with whom Bill had made friends while stationed there with the Air Force. They were Karen's godparents.

Other vacation destinations included Ocean City, Md., Hersheypark and King's Dominion, Florida and Monticello in Virginia.

Bill and Jean also traveled to Alaska, Hawaii and the Panama Canal.

"We had no regrets. I don't think he did," Jean said.

Bill had had diabetes for some time and in 2008, had open-heart surgery. He struggled with pulmonary fibrosis and was on oxygen 24 hours a day.

Jean said he seemed in good health until several months ago, and his death still took the family by surprise.

"I didn't expect this — not this soon," Jean said.

"He was very loving," Jean said. "His mom was older and her sister even older. He kind of looked out for them in their later years. He was just a dag-goned good guy."

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