In 2009, I wrote a column titled “Should we be afraid of the dark?” It was a story about a doctor’s dilemma in keeping patients alive, after the quality of life is gone, only for them to suffer more.
A few days after I wrote this column, I received a call one morning from a Frances Cruger, who told me she enjoyed my column and shared a story with me of how her daughter, Leslie, had suffered with breast cancer for three years and had died in 2003.
It was a story of a mother’s deep love for her daughter.
In speaking with Mrs. Cruger that morning, I knew she was a genuine, caring person and I went to visit her at the Fahrney-Keedy nursing cottage.
After talking at length with her during my first visit, she told me that she was preparing to move to another cottage. I volunteered my labor, and that of my friend, Chris, and we moved her belongings a few days later.
Several more visits followed.
Recently, I met with her again. At 4 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 105 pounds, her memory and agility are phenomenal.
In 1919, when she was born, World War I had recently ended, Babe Ruth was still swatting home runs and Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States. Her memories of the Depression and World War II remain vivid.
Frances grew up in Hagerstown and recalls attending several different schools in the 1930s. She talked of Winter Street, Wayside, Broadway and Woodland Way like it was yesterday.
She spoke fondly of her parents, their family values and how they raised seven kids while they lived on West Washington Street.
She told me how she borrowed $125 to go to Columbia Business College, and upon graduation, she paid back her loan at $1 a week from her $8 weekly paycheck.
Her jobs in Hagerstown included clerking and bookkeeping at the Zachs & Mills store, as well as at Foltz Manufacturing.
In 1946, she became interested in nursing and worked at Washington County Hospital, where she trained and became a registered nurse in 1949, graduating from that facility’s first nursing program. Later, she worked for several doctors and helped Dr. Bowman design the pediatric section of the hospital.
She then made her way to Shepherd College and studied to be a teacher. While there, she met a student by the name of Joan. She later married that student’s father and gave birth at the age of almost 40 to her own daughter, Leslie.
After leaving Shepherd College, she taught briefly at schools in Boonsboro and Clear Spring.
Frances had a very happy marriage to her husband, William, for almost 30 years. Before William’s death in 1989, her family also lived in New York.
Frances Cruger still possesses a keen wit and a sparkle in her eye.
She told me she was very fond of President Eisenhower and asked what lady wouldn’t like President Reagan. She still votes and is not very happy with our country’s leadership.
“When both parents of a family became workers many years ago,” she suggested that “children raised in those homes begin to suffer some problems.” She said, “It seems there was no one left at home to teach manners, common sense or money sense. The parents were obviously tired at the end of their work day.”
“Perhaps the absence of that parental bonding has created some of those problems we are experiencing today,” she said.
Frances Cruger, for sure, is a very special lady.
“I don’t know why I have lived so long,” she said. “I look forward to the day when I can once again see my husband and daughter,” she told me.
“You surely have touched a lot of lives, Mrs. Cruger, including mine,” I told her. “And I believe, one day, God’s going to grant your wish.”
Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.