Dorothy B. Himes

May 05, 2012|By JANET HEIM |
  • Dot Himes is all smiles in this photo taken at Christmas 1997.
Submitted photo

PLEASANT VALLEY — She was known to most people in the Weverton area, now called Pleasant Valley, as Miss Dot, Aunt Dot or Mom. When Dorothy “Dot” Himes died April 17, it left a hole in the tightly knit community.

Dot was synonymous with Himes' Store, which she had run with her husband, Harold “Roger” Himes, and his family since their marriage in 1940.

Roger took over the business from his father in the mid-1950s and when Roger died in 1972, Dot ran the business with the oldest of their three sons, Gary, and his wife, Martha, whom they call “Sam.”

Roger’s father started the business in another building at least a century ago — the family found paperwork dating to 1912 — then in the 1930s opened at the current site, Gary said.

The shop captures the spirit of a different era.

“The store hasn’t changed much,” said youngest son Joey Himes of Pleasant Valley.

Dot Minnick was born and raised in Middletown, Md., and Roger had lived in Pleasant Valley his whole life. Roger graduated from Brunswick High School, while Dot did not graduate.

The couple met at Compher’s Crossroad Inn, known as Buck’s, near Brunswick, Md. The owner, Buck, was married to a sister of Dot’s.

One of 15 children, Dot was no stranger to hard work when she married Roger at age 19.

They went to Leesburg, Va., to get married, then returned to work in the store that afternoon, her first day working there.

“Eighteen hours a day, six days a week,” Gary said.

The store used to be open from 8 a.m. until 10 or 11 p.m. In the 1960s, Dot would close at 6:30 p.m. so she could visit her father in Middletown.

Even if the store were closed, area folks knew they could knock on the back door if they needed something.

In 1992, a public hearing was held on a zoning appeal to allow a convenience store with gas pumps to be built on Weverton Road at Md. 67.

Twelve people voiced their opposition to the appeal in person and 41 people wrote letters of opposition, expressing how much the Himes family had done for them and that there was no need for a convenience store as long as Himes Store was in business.

The convenience store was never built.

Gary is known to say that he and his brothers were all born on Sunday, upstairs in the house.

“That’s because we’re closed on Sunday,” he said with a laugh.

Joey said his father used to bring in carloads of coal to sell and remembers his mother feeding the people who helped shovel the coal once it arrived at the store. Years ago, the store was truly a general store, selling clothes, shoes, linoleum, rugs and gasoline, among other things.

“It was the original mall,” said middle son Roger “Gene” Himes of Brunswick.

Located on Weverton Road, with a mailing address of Knoxville, Md., Himes Store was a community gathering place where you could hear the latest local news and hang out with friends. Dot was known for ensuring each child left with a candy treat and that each and every customer was treated with care.

“It’s still the center of the valley for news,” Gene said.

He said there used to be benches in the store where people would come and sit.

“They acted like they hadn’t seen each other in years,” Gene said.

Customers came from miles around, knowing their sandwiches would be piled high with meat. Beef was freshly ground as the customer watched, traditions that continue today.

“She’s rubbed off on all of us,” Joey said.

Every Christmas Eve, the Himes would host an open house for their customers, complete with a visit by Santa and lots of food and beverages.

Gary said his parents weren’t in the business to reap huge profits.

“They made a living and they was happy,” he said. “They didn’t spend a lot of money. They lived within their means.”

Gary remembers an especially good year for the business financially when Dot was running it, which he thought was a good thing.

Instead, Dot told him they were going to have to cut back on the profit margin because they were making too much money.

Even though Dot was petite — several inches shy of 5 feet tall and about 100 pounds — she was a giant to those who knew her.

“She helped so many people, it wasn’t funny,” Joey said.

The Himes family belonged to Brownsville Church of the Brethren, and although Dot didn’t attend regularly, it was important to help the church if it was needed.

Sundays were reserved for several family activities — either a visit to Dot’s family in Middletown, followed by a meal at Buck’s and ice cream at Main’s in Middletown, or baseball at Sandy Hook or Gapland, where Roger managed a team for years.

“Mom was head cheerleader,” Joey said.

After the games, players on both teams, umpires and spectators would gather at the Himes’ campsite down by the river, where Dot made homemade ice cream for the kids and always had a pot of soup.

Dot and Roger raised their boys in the house that was connected to the store. The boys graduated from Boonsboro High School and were active in sports.

Dwight Scott coached all three boys in football, the two older ones in track, and has fond memories of Dot.

“Dot Himes was a member of the greatest generation, tough as a combat soldier. ... Dot was the kindest person that (my wife) Helen and I have ever known,” Coach Scott emailed.

“The family, all of them, were very close to us,” he said in a phone interview.

Gene went into the service and lived in Connecticut before moving back to the area after his father died. Joey went to Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C. Dot wrote him letters and she always ended with this advice — “Pay your bills and treat people nice.” 

While working in the store, Dot also took care of several family members, including her father-in-law for four years before his death in 1962, her brother-in-law, and her sister-in-law who was paralyzed after a stroke. 

Dot was a homebody and didn’t care much for traveling.

“She wasn’t a traveler. She was happy here,” Gene said. 

Working in the store required being on her feet all day. Dot’s feet lacked cushioning, which caused her pain, but she never let that slow her down.

Dot retired about 10 years ago, after she started having small seizures. For the past eight years, she depended on a walker or wheelchair to get around, but was able to stay in her home, thanks to her family and friends.

A steady stream of visitors checked in on her, and her two best friends, Joan Best and Delores Rickerds, visited three times a day, getting her meals, cleaning up and keeping her company.

“We never did a thing for her that she didn’t say thank you,” Gary said.

It was fitting that Dot died in a bed in the front room of her home of 72 years, close to the store that was a big part of her life for decades.

Pastor Tom Fralin ended his funeral meditation with this thought: “If people in this community voted for the outstanding citizen, Dot Himes would win hands down.”

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 Dorothy B. Himes, who died April 17 at the age of 89. Her obituary was published in the April 20 edition of The Herald-Mail.

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