John H. Rinehart

February 18, 2012|By JANET HEIM |
  • John Rinehart holds a large peach in the orchard in this picture taken in August 2000.
Submitted photo

Hard work, a positive attitude, and love for family and community characterize the life of John H. Rinehart.

John, born in 1926 to D. Eldred and Mary Rinehart, grew up during the Depression. The couple also had a daughter, Mary, who now lives in Hagerstown.

The family lived on the orchard in Ringgold started by John’s father in 1930, now known as Rinehart Orchards Inc. John started helping with the business at an early age.

“They had apples, peaches, vegetables, berries and two dairy farms. They were very diversified,” son John D. “J.D.” Rinehart said. “Dad would milk cows before school. He was taught to work at an early age. That was instilled in him by family.”

John was young when he learned to drive, in part because he had to drive the fruit to market during World War II since he was one of the few people left on the orchard. He drove fruit to Baltimore, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., before the days of interstate highways, J.D. said.

After graduating from Smithsburg High School in 1945, John partnered with his father in the business. Five years later, John married Elizabeth “Betty” Kerfoot.

They had three daughters and one son. While the children learned the value of hard work at the orchard, their parents also made sure there was time for play.

“He not only knew how to run a business, but knew how to have fun,” J.D. said. “It was a good upbringing.”

Hot summer days in the orchard were followed with swimming in the family pool. There also was time for boating on Chesapeake Bay, beach vacations in Ocean City, Md., and car trips.

“He taught us hard work, responsibility and a love of travel,” said daughter Gina Ferree, who lives in the Richmond, Va., area. “Our travel was anywhere you could drive a family with four kids in a car.” 

Gina said her father really enjoyed his family, and as they gathered photos for the funeral, she noticed that he was smiling and laughing in 95 percent of them. The family now includes six grandchildren, who called their grandfather “Papa John,” and one great-grandson.

“He had a really positive outlook,” Gina said.

That positive outlook was put to the test when Betty was diagnosed with breast cancer and given five years to live. She died in 1979 at the age of 52.

“He was a real family man. He was so proud of his three daughters and son, grandchildren and great-grandchild,” said J.D. Rinehart, the youngest child, who was 16 when his mother died.

While D. Eldred made it clear to his grandson, J.D., that he expected him to take over the business, J.D. said his father said it was his choice.

“Dad said, ‘Do what you want. It’s here if you want it. You have to be committed. It’s hard work and long hours,’” J.D. said.

J.D. graduated from Delaware Valley College in 1985 with a degree in horticulture. He joined his father in the business that year, and they worked side by side for about 27 years. John slowly gave J.D. more responsibilities, and eventually handed over the management of the business to his son.

John still was reviewing financial records until December 2011, J.D. said.

John remarried in 1996. He and his second wife, Martha, shared a love of golf, which they enjoyed year-round by living part of the year in Leesburg, Fla.

They had a lot of friends and enjoyed a full social schedule, wherever they were, until Martha’s death in 2006.

“He liked being around people. He was very social,” Gina said. “He was graceful with people, open to conversation and enjoyed their humor.”

Another of John’s gifts was his thoughtful responses.

“He was patient. He didn’t rush to judgment,” J.D. said. “He would give you the best answer he could. Most of the time, it was the right answer.”

Whether it was ringing a bell for The Salvation Army, raising money for the Shriners, teaching Sunday school, serving on the finance board at Waynesboro Church of the Brethren or running blood drives for the Rotary Club of Long Meadow, John took his involvement in community organizations seriously.

“Any group Dad would join, he would not go in half-hearted,” J.D. said. “He would stick with the leadership or become a leader with his intellect and hard work.”

He was a Mason for more than 60 years and active with the Boy Scout troop to which J.D., an Eagle Scout, belonged. John was active in the Republican Party, chairman of the Maryland State Apple Commission and a trustee for U.S. Apple, a national lobbying organization, J.D. said.

While John had been struggling with health issues for about three years, J.D. said it was his failing kidneys that caught up with him.

“He had nine lives. He had several health scares but always bounced back,” J.D. said. “It kind of surprised us this time that he didn’t bounce back.”

“He had a blessed life, received a lot of grace and gave a lot of grace,” Gina said.

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 John H. Rinehart, who died Feb. 3 at the age of 85. His obituary was published in the Feb. 7 edition of The Herald-Mail.

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