Richard E. “Rich” Fouke II said his parents had three chapters to their life together — their 19 years of marriage before he was born, their life raising their only child and their years as empty nesters filled with travel.
Now, they have one more chapter.
“It’s hard to lose a parent, but when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt how much he loved her, it’s easier to let him go back to her to live out the next chapter,” said son Rich, who lives in Brunswick, Md. “When she died, it was sheer desperation. To know they’re back together — grief is nothing compared to that.”
Richard Sr. was born and raised in Hagerstown, with the family living on Liberty Street, Jefferson Boulevard and Cannon Avenue, said brother John Fouke of Hagerstown.
He was the fourth of five children. He attended Hagerstown High School, but did not graduate, Rich said.
John was three years older than his brother Richard. He remembers building a lean-to with Richard along Antietam Creek one summer where they would hang out during the week, then help their father work in the garden on the weekend. They fished, hunted and roller skated at Starland Roller Rink together, and once they had their own homes, helped each other with projects.
John recalled a haircut Richard got when he was about 10 or 11, parted in the middle and standing up in the back, which with his freckles earned him the nickname “Alfalfa,” a character in “The Little Rascals.”
Having grown up in a railroading family, Richard chose that same path and worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad, which became PennCentral, then Consolidated Rail Corp. (CONRAIL) from 1949 until his retirement in 1995. His only break in employment was when he was served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War, working as a baker, but never deployed.
Brother Nevin Fouke of Hagerstown, 11 years younger than Richard, remembers how much Richard liked to fish and that like their parents, enjoyed going to the Charles Town race track.
“He was a winner most of the time,” son Rich said. “If he didn’t win at the ponies, he won at the slots.”
Nevin also remembers Richard delivering pies from his bakery all over town.
“He mostly worked all the time,” Nevin said in a telephone interview.
After his railroad shift was over, Richard would head to work at The Tasty Bake Shoppe, which he co-owned with Jack Kusinski.
Jack was dating Mildred Lefevre, who worked with Shirley Herbaugh at Potomac Edison Co. Mildred set up a double date with Richard and Shirley in January 1950 for dinner at the Palomino Room in the Hotel McGlaughlin in Greencastle, Pa., according to a letter Rich found in Shirley’s bridal book.
The Foukes married in June 1951 and since both shared a love for the beach, had planned to honeymoon in Ocean City, Md. They took the wrong ferry across the bay and ended up closer to Wildwood, N.J., so decided to go there instead, Rich wrote in an email.
Shirley was from Moorefield, W.Va., and like Richard, grew up in a family without a lot of money. She was a college graduate and became the personal secretary to Potomac Edison’s president.
Having two incomes was unusual for the time, with many women working only until they started their families.
After almost two decades, Richard and Shirley celebrated her pregnancy, at the age of 40 or 41, with a dinner at a New Jersey lobster house, Rich said.
With a life filled with blessings, Richard and Shirley sought ways to give back, both volunteering until Shirley’s death in 2004. They were active in their church, The Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown.
Richard had volunteered with REACH since the cold weather shelter opened. Rich said his father was known as the “king of the kitchen” because feeding others was a big part of his ministry.
After Shirley’s death, Richard became a daily presence at church, showing up at 9 a.m. to tackle assorted maintenance projects. He also teamed with the church secretary, Kelly Rajahpillay, to assist people who came to the church office in need of food or financial assistance, as well as making weekly Sam’s Club runs for supplies.
“He was on top of so many things in the facility, things we didn’t even realize needed to be done, all with no need for recognition,” the Rev. Kyle Powderly said. “Beyond that, he was such a loving presence here. As a result, I didn’t just lose a church member, but I lost a friend.”
Sometimes Richard was there just to visit with people who came through the door of the church office. He earned a small corner of a desk in the main office, complete with a sign “Richard’s parking space.”
Richard’s cooking and organizational skills helped many with food-related fundraisers. There was the fall Low Country Boil to benefit Habitat for Humanity of Washington County, apple dumplings and buckeye sales for mission funds, along with spaghetti dinners and more.
“For Richard, food was a means by which to help others,” Kyle said.
Richard also helped deliver SHARE Food packages one Saturday a month, often purchasing food out of his own pocket, just as he did with supplies for church maintenance projects.
Bob Keplinger of Hagerstown had worked side by side with Richard daily for the past five years on church projects such as trimming bushes and replacing light bulbs, as well as on fundraising events.
“I wanted to help Richard,” Bob said. “With his age and health, there were things he shouldn’t have been doing.”
Bob said he’s not one to stand up and speak in front of other people, but felt called to do so at Richard’s funeral, his tribute list written on six note cards.
“Richard was an amazing man,” Bob said. “He was such a great person. He went beyond for the church.”
Bob said Richard had a number of health issues — several stents, hip replacement, macular degeneration, diabetes, then radiation treatments for prostate cancer, diagnosed in 2001 or 2002, which led to chronic myeloid leukemia. In April came a diagnosis of lung cancer. He was a strong person who took it all in stride.
“He was a special guy,” Bob said. “I could sit here and talk about him all day. He was just a really good Christian brother.”
Rich said even though his father knew he was dying, he always found the strength for a smile to help take away the grief.
Richard was even in good spirits the day he died, Kyle said.
“It was a blessing to have known him,” Kyle said. “He was an inspiration to us in a lot of ways we didn’t even realize.”
“He was one of those people. They just don’t make them like that. They broke the mold,” Rich 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 Richard E. Fouke Sr., who died July 6 at the age of 81. His obituary was published in the July 10 edition of The Herald-Mail.