Last original employee of the Potomac Center is retiring

David Forsyth has been with the facility since 1978

August 29, 2011|By JANET HEIM |
  • David Forsyth is retiring Wednesday from the Potomac Center. He was one of the first employees hired at the center when it opened in 1978.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — When the Potomac Center opened in 1978, David Forsyth was one of the first employees hired. Now, the last original employee remaining, he will mark his final day there Wednesday.

Forsyth, 59, a certified nursing associate, works as a day shift leader at the center.

After working in construction, then doing farm work and commercial driving, Forsyth applied for jobs at the Western Maryland Hospital Center and the Potomac Center. He was offered a job at the hospital center, but the next day got a job offer at the Potomac Center, his first choice, and took it.

Forsyth said he views his job as an extension of his Christian mission.

He met his wife, Karen, at the Potomac Center, where she is a registered nurse, and they married in 1988. They live in Maugansville and have three children.

Forsyth graduated from North Hagerstown High School in 1970, then attended Hagerstown Junior College.

Over 30 years of employment, he has taken people from Potomac Center to Hagerstown Suns and Baltimore Orioles games, to the beach, to HersheyPark, to concerts and doctors appointments, on picnics and to visit their parents, and more.

“Dave literally has the patience of Job. In the NFL, he would be a first draft choice,” said Brent Saunders, the center’s chief operating officer, who has worked with Forsyth for 28 years.

Saunders said Forsyth works with those with challenging behaviors.

“Dave has always had the toughest of the tough,” he said.

“We might fill his PIN number, but we won’t able to replace him,” Saunders said.

Over the years, about 400 people received the rehabilitation and education at Potomac Center needed to place them in the community, Saunders said.

The population they serve has become more challenging, and age can make the job more demanding.

“I had 30 years in and, to be honest, the stress is increasing,” Forsyth said.

He said that while the people he cares for might have limited abilities, they don’t lack personality.

“They make me crack up,” Forsyth said.

Forsyth received a commendation in the early 1990s from former Maryland Sen. Donald F. Munson for helping get a teenager out of a burning home. He and other staff members were headed back to the center with residents after an outing in a work vehicle and stopped when they saw the fire.

He also was recognized with an Employee of the Year award in 1984.
Forsyth’s retirement list is a work in progress. It includes working around the house, garden and on family history; volunteering more at church; finishing the book he’s writing; and possibly continuing his education.

In addition to his job, Forsyth is involved at his church, Tri-State Fellowship, and has coached youth sports, including girls and boys basketball, volleyball, soccer, football and baseball.

The Forsythes hope to one day visit Alaska.

“I’m looking forward to doing some things I want to do,” Forsyth said. “I want to relax a lot, initially, at least for the first few months. I might look for a part-time job later.”


(Editor's note: This story was edited Aug. 31, 2011, to correct the spelling of Forsyth's last name and correct the year in which he won an Employee of the Year award.)

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