Had Constance “Connie” Noll lived a few more weeks, she would have been making plans for her annual April Fool’s pranks.
Growing up, her sons, Bradley “Kirk” and Matthew “Scott,” could expect to have their underwear sewn shut or their beds short-sheeted, said Gilbert “Gib” Noll, Connie’s husband of 56 years.
Connie even teased the boys with the “news” of a third pregnancy one year, which was not true, Gib said.
Scott turned the tables on his mother, picking a random day and rubber-banding the kitchen sink sprayer. She was dressed for work and was not happy with her youngest son when she got soaked and had to change.
“She was so mad at me. It took a day for her to get over it,” Scott said.
Connie was the third of eight children raised in the close-knit family of Joseph A. Long Sr. and Helena Long in Hagerstown’s West End. Gib said Connie, who weighed 12 pounds at birth, was born at home and the doctor had to park in the middle of the street for the January 1935 delivery because of snow.
At family gatherings, Connie was “the life of the party,” which often involved spraying the crowd with a garden hose, said sister Beverly “Sissie” LaPole of Hagerstown. Marching around the room with pots and pans was often expected, with Connie in the lead.
Gib said her four brothers called her “The Animal” and were scared of her because they never knew what she was going to do next.
Connie was instrumental in starting a weekly Saturday tradition of the eight siblings and their spouses meeting at the Elks Club for dinner, said sister Patricia “Patt” Long Crowther of Hagerstown. The siblings had been meeting once a month for lunch for the past several years and had added Friday night card games to their calendars.
“She was the sister everybody wished they had,” said youngest sibling Robin Mastiano of Williamsport.
A 1952 graduate of Hagerstown High School, Connie met Gib in high school. He was a year behind her and they started dating the year she graduated.
Gib had grown up in Pennsylvania, but after his father died, he and a brother lived in an orphanage for five years before moving in with their grandparents. He had a sister who was a teacher for Washington County Public Schools and came to live with her in 1948.
Connie worked part time at J.J. Newberry’s during high school and got an office job there after graduation. She and Gib married on May 24, 1955, and lived in an apartment on North Prospect Street in Hagerstown.
Gib was drafted in 1956, went to basic training in Fort Jackson (S.C.) and Fort McClellan (Ala.), then was sent overseas to Germany. The couple moved to Germany and lived in a small apartment there for a year and a half.
Stationed near the French border, they got to travel to Paris, other areas in France, Luxembourg and Heidelberg, and to the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, Gib said.
Upon their return to Hagerstown, Connie worked at a downtown bank. Gib worked at Moller Organ Co., then at Mack Trucks.
After 10 years of marriage and no children, the Nolls adopted Kirk when he was 3 weeks old. Connie quit working for a while, then took a part-time job when Two Guys opened, as cash operator manager, until 1973.
Before they had children, the Nolls did things with their nieces and nephews, many of whom traveled great distances to be at Connie’s funeral, Gib said.
“She really thought she wasn’t going to have any children. When they adopted Kirk, I’ll never forget that,” Sissie said.
“Mom and Dad told me I was adopted, but I was always part of the family,” Kirk said. “They made sure I knew, but it means nothing. I never felt different.”
Following a medical procedure years later, Connie was surprised when the doctor’s prognosis that she could get pregnant came true, Sissie said.
Connie was 39 when Scott was born in 1973, eight years after Kirk. After Scott’s birth, Connie returned to the bank as a teller and worked there until her retirement.
The family moved to a home on Downsville Pike 50 years ago, so the boys attended Williamsport schools. Gib said he and Connie always were involved in their sons’ activities, whether it was marching band, basketball, football or wrestling, or serving on the PTA at Fountain Rock Elementary School.
“Mom was Mom. She was always there,” said Kirk, who lives in Williamsport. “Mom always looked out for her kids no matter what. She always supported us in what we did.”
“Everything they did was so Kirk and I could have opportunities they didn’t have growing up, like going to college,” said Scott, who lives in Hagerstown.
Connie was a lifetime member of Grace United Methodist Church in Hagerstown and taught Sunday school for 50 years, Gib said. She sang with the choir, was a Girl Scout leader at the church, was involved with plays and was recognized as Mother of the Year in 2004.
“Connie had a way with young people,” Patt said. “She would talk and they would listen. She had a real knack for that. She was the best Christian I ever knew. I think she lived her life to be where she is today.”
Christmas was a favorite holiday of Connie’s. She loved spoiling her six grandchildren.
“That was a big time of the year. My wife went overboard with Christmas,” Gib said. “Every year, she’d say she was going to cut back, but she never did.”
Kirk remembers the Christmas gatherings at Connie’s parents’ home. They lived in one side of a Mitchell Avenue duplex and somehow managed to “pack” all eight children, spouses and 20-plus grandchildren into their home.
“It was always family for holidays,” Kirk said.
Connie was known for her organizational and cooking skills. When the couple was in Germany, she joked that she was going to write a cookbook on 101 ways to use ground beef, Gib said.
“Pretty much, she was an outgoing individual,” he said. “If you wanted something done, ask her.”
“She’d always want to jump in and say, ‘Is there anything I can do to help? Can I help in any way?’” Sissie said.
Connie’s love for water included the ocean, a love worth getting up at 2 a.m. for a one-day trip to Atlantic City and back. Connie also loved hard shell crabs, which was “almost a weekly ritual in season,” Gib said. After retirement, the couple spent two weeks traveling out West and later went to Alaska, where they went on a cruise.
Connie enjoyed good health most of her life, but learned she had pulmonary fibrosis of the lungs about eight years ago, Gib said. Her health began failing in the last year, requiring her to be on oxygen.
She developed pneumonia and was hospitalized for six weeks, three of them in intensive care. Connie was getting some rehab so she could return home, but relapsed and died.
“I had a hard time coming to grips because I thought she was going to make it,” Sissie said. “I just remember the last time at the rehab center, she threw both arms open and gave me a big hug.”
“Thirty-eight years is just not enough time,” Scott said of the time he had with his mother.
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 Constance “Connie” J. Noll, who died March 15 at the age of 77. Her obituary was published in the March 17 edition of The Herald-Mail.