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Catherine M. Newcomer

January 07, 2012|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Catherine "Cathy" Reese poses for her senior picture taken in 1948.
Submitted Photo

Catherine “Cathy” Reese was not expected to outlive childhood. Instead, Cathy would go on to have four children and live to age 82, leading a life filled with service, interests and travel that touched many people.

As a second-grader, she was diagnosed with failing kidneys, attributed to her premature birth.

At age 14, she developed rheumatic fever, and with her kidneys still not functioning well, was not expected to recover. A strong faith kept Cathy and her family going, and after a lengthy recuperation, the doctor released her from his care, stunned that she survived.

Cathy missed two years of high school, graduating from Boonsboro High School in 1949 instead of with her original class in 1947, as detailed in one of three books she wrote about her life in Washington County. The first book was published in 2000.

For one of those high school years, Cathy was at Smithsburg High School, where she met Charles “Charlie” Newcomer. Cathy dated his older brother briefly, but lost touch with the Newcomer brothers when she returned to Boonsboro for her senior year.

Charlie was the one she eventually would marry, but not for more than 30 years. In the meantime, both Cathy and Charlie married other people and each had four children.

Cathy raised her family in Mount Lena and served as a church organist at Mount Carmel United Methodist Church near Boonsboro for 20 years. She had two older brothers and three younger sisters, with an older sister dying at birth.

Both Cathy and Charlie were divorced after their children were raised. They got reacquainted when they found themselves in the same real estate class at Hagerstown Junior College, although neither went on to sell real estate.

“We were supposed to meet,” Charlie said. “There are no reservations in my mind God wanted us to be together.”

At the time, Cathy was working as personnel director for Ramada Inn and seeking a job change. Charlie was a manager at a grocery store when the decision was made to open on Sundays, prompting him to seek a change.

Cathy then worked in sales at Carpenter’s World of Music at Valley Mall, where she was a piano and organ instructor, attracting customers to the store with her playing.

The couple had many shared interests — faith, community service, family, travel and an active lifestyle.

They began taking Sunday drives and going out for ice cream, but Cathy told Charlie she had no interest in getting remarried. Two-and-a-half years later, though, she said “yes.”

“He and Cathy had so much in common — faith and a devotion to community, service and ministry,” said Charlie’s youngest son, Thomas Newcomer. “I think both of them had values from the greatest generation. They sacrificed and gave back instead of asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’”

It wasn’t until Cathy married Charlie in 1983 that she took her first trip outside of the Tri-State area. They traveled for their wedding to Ohio, where they were married by one of Cathy’s brothers, who was a pastor there. During the Newcomers’ 28-year marriage, they traveled to all 50 states, Mexico, Canada, Europe and more.

“Cathy and I were exceptionally compatible in life,” Charlie said.

Charlie said Cathy was the perfect travel mate because they agreed on traveling without lodging reservations, allowing for stops or to change course if they saw something that interested them on the way.

“We never slept in the car one night,” Charlie said. “God always did provide everywhere we went.”

As a working mother with four children, time was a precious commodity, yet it felt like her mother was always there for her children, said only daughter Lori Hoffman Hays, a Methodist pastor from Lexington Park, Md.

Throughout her life, Cathy was open to trying new things. Lori said it was Cathy, who was about 70 at the time, who bought and set up Lori’s first computer.

“She learned to use a computer before I did,” Lori said with a laugh. “The list is so long of what she learned in retirement.”

One of Cathy’s many interests included gardening. She dried herbs from her garden and sold them in many forms from the shop in her garden shed.

Cathy was a longtime Sunday school teacher and organist. Most recently, she was a member of Welty Church of the Brethren in Greensburg.

“Her life was just so full of interest and vitality,” Lori said. “And through all of that, she looked for opportunities to share Christ with people through her life.”

Lori was with her mother during her final week of life, returning to Lexington Park just long enough for Christmas services.

“I was praying with her as she breathed her last, which was the greatest gift to both of us,” Lori said.

Lori delivered her mother’s eulogy, which she said was “a great privilege,” with her strength to do so coming from her mother. She focused on Cathy’s love of parenting and her faith.  

“It was her incredible love and joy in being our mom ... We had the joy of growing up with a mom who loved teaching us and being with us,” Lori said.

She said Cathy also loved being with her four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and eight stepgrandchildren, who called her Mimi.

Faith was the other thread throughout Cathy’s life.

“Her goal in life was to share His love with other people,” Lori said. “She taught me that her whole life.”

Cathy was diagnosed with dementia about three years ago, with Charlie caring for her at their Edgemont home. They were both longtime volunteers at Waynesboro Hospital, which was about six minutes from their home.

It was medical staff at the hospital who became concerned about Cathy’s forgetfulness, which led to her diagnosis, Charlie said.

“She touched a lot of lives along the way ... She’d been praying to God for the last year to take her home,” Charlie said. “She got her desire. I know she’s with the Lord. It’s tough to see the one you love go down like that, but I wouldn’t wish her back, even though I miss her terribly.

“I just want to say she was a great mother and perfect wife.”

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After Cathy’s dementia diagnosis, she wrote this poem to be shared with her family after her death.

I am not here,

I am with Jesus who has given me a new body.

(No more pain or sickness)

Some day, all of you will come to be with me here in Heaven where God has prepared for those of us who claim Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.

I love you!

See you all there.

Then we will never part again.

From Mom/Mimi

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 Catherine M. Newcomer, who died Dec. 27 at the age of 82. Her obituary was published in the Dec. 28 edition of The Herald-Mail.

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