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Carroll G. Strailman

December 17, 2011|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • After 61 years of marriage, the love Ginny and Jerry Strailman shared shows in this photo taken this year.
Submitted Photo

BOONSBORO, Md. — Carroll Strailman was a man of many names.

His family called him Bud, while people in the Boonsboro area knew him as Jerry. Some Boonsboro High School basketball players called him Doc, his co-workers at the IRS in Martinsburg, W.Va., called him Guy — his middle name — and his two grandchildren called him PapPap.

"To me, he was Jerry," longtime friend and neighbor Bob Wetzel said.

Aside from his names and the many hats he wore in the Boonsboro community, Jerry was a sincere, hard-working man who put family first.

"He had three loves — family was first, music second and basketball was third," said his wife, Virginia "Ginny" Strailman.

Ginny shared a list of 15 items by which Jerry lived. "Always put family first" topped the list, followed by "Develop interests that each other likes so you can do things together" and 13 others.

Jerry loved Big Band music from the 1940s and the couple traveled within the region to see groups perform music of that era.

Even though he had never taken lessons, Jerry could sit down at the piano and play songs by ear. He also enjoyed singing around the house, said daughter Denise "Dee" Gouker of Sharpsburg.

Ginny admits that Jerry, who knew many of her girlfriends, had pursued her and she kept resisting.

"I didn't want to date him for anything," Ginny said. "He chased and chased and chased me."

Their first date was in April 1950 at the Braddock Heights, Md., roller rink, and Jerry was allowed to drive Ginny home.

They married about six months later in October 1950, months after Ginny graduated from Boonsboro High School.

"We got married on Sunday, both went to work Monday and honeymooned eight months later at Niagara Falls," Ginny said.

After their marriage, they lived near the Old South Mountain Inn, then on Mapleville Road. In 1988, they moved to the home they built on David Drive in Boonsboro.

Their only child, Denise or "Dee," was born in 1952. She has a grown son and daughter.

Jerry was born in Brunswick, Md., in 1927, moved with his mother to Frederick, Md., after she remarried in 1934 — his father was killed in a train accident in the B&O Railroad yard in Brunswick, Md., months before Jerry was born — and graduated from Frederick High School in 1945.

While in high school, Jerry received permission to work in the print shop of the Frederick News-Post from 8:30 p.m. to 4 a.m., then attended school from 8:30 a.m. to 1:20 p.m.

From August 1945 to May 1947, Jerry served in the U.S. Army. He traveled throughout Europe in search of bodies of U.S. airmen who had gone down in plane crashes while on missions.

He returned home and worked various jobs, including dry cleaning delivery. He met some prominent people and once, when delivering a suit to a customer in the area, received a $20 tip from a house guest who would become president of the United States, Lyndon Johnson.

Jerry then landed a government job at Fort Detrick in 1954, first in the Safety Division, then in the print shop and then the payroll office.

Working in the payroll office piqued Jerry's interest in computers and he again took the government placement test, hoping to get a procurement job on the post. Instead, he was contacted by the personnel department at the IRS Computer Center in Martinsburg.

It was in February 1963 that Jerry switched careers from taxes to computers. He retired on Dec. 31, 1988, but then did a nine-month stint helping Washington County with a new house numbering system.

During his tenure at the IRS, Jerry recalls a young Bill Gates visiting and talking about the future of much smaller computers.

"He had a good sense of humor and loved to tell stories," son-in-law Doug Gouker said.

In addition to his work, Jerry made time for community involvement.

"He was very active in the community," said Ginny, mentioning the Washington County Election Board, Washington County Recreation and Parks Advisory Board, church and a long list of others.

Jerry met Bob Wetzel in 1967 and their friendship grew through basketball, the Boonsboro Rotary Club, which Jerry helped found, but which no longer exists, and the Boonsboro Lions Club.

"He said if I needed help with basketball — that's where we started — real friendship," said Bob, who was a teacher and basketball coach at Boonsboro High School.

An outside summer basketball league was started in Boonsboro, but coaches couldn't be involved, so Jerry helped coordinate it. Next came a junior basketball league for sixth- to eighth-graders, which Jerry started and ran for about six years, Bob said.

"He took these kids all over," Bob said.

Of the 20 years Bob coached basketball at the high school, Jerry served as scorekeeper for 12 of those years. He also was a co-founder of the Boonsboro Little League.

When the Boonsboro Rotary Club closed down, Jerry and Bob missed the monthly meals so much that, along with their wives, they continued the dining-out tradition, taking turns each month choosing a restaurant and driving.

"Our dinners were an outgrowth of that," said Barb Wetzel, Bob's wife and a Boonsboro town councilwoman.  

A week before Jerry got sick, he wanted to go to the Cozy Restaurant in Thurmont, Md., to see the leaves turning colors.

"That was the last time I saw him in person," Bob said. "I lost a friend."

Jerry was known for his athletic ability, organizational skills, attention to detail and punctuality.

"He was organized and a planner," Doug said. "He liked timeliness. I could never beat him early."

Jerry's positive attitude was legendary.

"Some people thrive on negativity. He was just the opposite," Barb said. "He was interesting because he was positive."

Jerry was a diabetic and had a history of heart problems. About a month ago, Jerry was sidelined with congestive heart failure, then a serious bacterial infection set in.

He was hospitalized at Meritus Medical Center for a week, then spent three weeks at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where he died.

"He was something else," Ginny said. "We had a great life together. I just wish it had lasted longer, but he was suffering."

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