Former Boonsboro fire company president looks back on quarter-century of service

Donald "Don" Shumaker says he has 'a lot of good memories' of First Hose Co. of Boonsboro

September 22, 2011|By JANET HEIM |
  • Donald "Don" Shumaker was president of the First Hose Co. of Boonsboro for 17 years. Shumaker retired two years ago after 25 years of service to the fire company.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

BOONSBORO — Donald "Don" Shumaker began his involvement on the board of the First Hose Co. of Boonsboro 27 years ago, serving as president for 17 of those years.

Two years ago, he decided it was time to call it quits.

"After 25 years and all the problems with cancer, I said it was time to forget about it," said Shumaker, 73, who has cancer and receives care from Hospice of Washington County.

"My goals in life are — one, do everything I can to help people out, and two, to leave a fatherly image for young people," he said.

Shumaker credits Timothy Smith, who was fire chief at First Hose Co., with getting him involved.

"He (Smith) was like one of my children. He asked if I would join the fire department and the fire police," Shumaker said.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office needed volunteers to be fire police, which entailed handling traffic and controlling the scenes of fires and accidents. Shumaker agreed.

"It was the idea of helping somebody. I got called a lot of bad names, but have a lot of good memories," Shumaker said.

"But he almost got run over several times," said Liz Shumaker, his wife of 52 years.

A few years later, when he got sick in 1988 and was on medical disability for a time, it was the fire company that kept him going.

"I was a workaholic. It was a good thing I had the fire company. It kept me from losing my mind," Shumaker said.

The scanner still hisses with updates in Shumaker's Kerns Avenue home. He admits he listens because he's "nosy."

Shumaker said he never wanted to be president of the fire company, but ended up with the job anyway.

"That was a railroad job," Shumaker said.

He was asked to run for vice president and got the position, but said he wouldn't go any further. One night, when a meeting was not going well, Smith slid his papers over to Shumaker and said he resigned.

While the change in leadership took Shumaker by surprise, he took the commitment seriously and held the post for almost two decades.

"I stuck it out because I was bull-headed," he said.

Under his leadership, property was attained for a substation in Gapland First Hose Co. Fire Chief Oley Griffith said.

"Don's been very instrumental with the fire company the past 20 years. ... He had the old school, old business style, when a handshake went a long way. He was a friend of a lot of people here at the fire service," Griffith said.

Shumaker grew up on a farm across from what is now Bonnie's at The Red Byrd. He was a member of the Boonsboro High School Class of 1956, but Shumaker said he chose not to finish his last month or so of classes after a conflict with a teacher.

He joined the U.S. Army instead, then held several jobs before he was hired as a machinist at what was then Mack Trucks.

"I made it. I raised a family and kept food on the table," Shumaker said.

He met his future wife, Liz Palmer, when he worked at Hagerstown Laundry. Liz was a senior in high school and was working in the office.

"I was a little country boy. She was citified," Don Shumaker said.

They have two daughters, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. The couple's 2-year-old Shih Tzu Darlin' is Don's constant companion.

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