HANCOCK, Md. — Violet Golden and her husband, John Robert “Bob” Golden, raised their seven children in a modest home in Hancock, near an orchard and within walking distance to downtown Hancock, since Violet never drove.
Their home was a gathering place for neighborhood children, who were drawn to the home for the activities Violet encouraged. There were forts made out of apple crates and softball games played in the orchard.
A sizable hill behind the house was popular for sledding in the winter, and Violet opened the basement door and invited the sledders to warm up around the basement’s coal furnace while she served hot chocolate.
“She just encouraged us to do things. We never got bored in the summer or winter months,” said daughter Kathy Hixon of Hancock.
Despite a limited income, the necessities were always provided, and thanks to Violet’s resourcefulness, many of the wants were covered.
“She always thought of a way to have something done. If we didn’t have sleds, we’d use cookie sheets, cardboard or plastic,” Kathy said.
Plastic bags kept shoes dry when there weren’t boots to wear.
Violet’s children recall countless trips to the library for books, which their mother, an avid reader, often read aloud to them.
Daughter Cindy Trail of Warfordsburg, Pa., said by phone that they were such frequent patrons of the library that the librarian knew what Violet liked to read.
Violet also sewed clothes and costumes for her children, often from patterns she made. A costume collection in the basement inspired impromptu skits and plays.
Cindy recalls seeing a photo in the family albums of Violet dressed as a cat, and pushing Cindy and Kathy, her fourth and fifth children, in a buggy with them dressed as kittens for the annual Hancock Halloween parade. The buggy was decorated with a sign that read “Puss and Boots.”
The family moved into their Hancock home in 1953, purchasing the house when it was just a shell, with the downstairs partially finished.
Bob finished the interior and was always “piddling, caulking or painting,” son Dennis “Dennie” Golden of Warfordsburg, said, while daughter Linda “Nean” Bishop of Hancock said Violet was “with the kids playing games and doing crafts.”
“She decorated inside and out for holidays, and made her own snow out of soap powder. She just had an imagination,” Kathy said.
Violet was known as Grandma Golden to many area children, who knew her through her family and her volunteer work at the family’s church, St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Hancock, local schools and as a Cub Scout den mother.
Linda said the Rev. F. Allan Weatherholt Jr. “called her the Pied Piper of St. Thomas, because all the kids followed her around, even his two kids.”
“I really thought the world of her. She had a terrific gift for working with children. She will be greatly missed,” Weatherholt said.
With a 20-year age span among the Golden children, the older children were starting their families while Violet and Bob still had children at home.
“Because Mom liked kids,” Linda said of their large family.
“And she had an extended family — all the kids in the neighborhood, Sunday school and church. Today, most of them call her Grandma Golden.”
To her own grandchildren, she was “Gram.”
Linda, the second child and oldest daughter, said she graduated from Hancock High School in June 1964, and Jackie, the youngest, was born a month later. At one point, there were five generations of family living, including both Violet and Bob, before his death in October 2010.
“Jackie doesn’t even remember Dennie being home,” Linda said. Dennie is the third of the children.
There were 15 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren, three great-great-grandchildren, and numerous stepgrandchildren and step great-grandchildren.
Violet and Bob were Hancock natives. Bob was from a family of 10 children and Violet had one sister, along with a sister who died days after birth.
Violet’s father gave his daughters nicknames, which the girls used only with each other. Violet was “Diddie” and her sister, Mary McPeak, of Needmore, Pa. was “Chippie.”
Violet was dating someone from Berkeley Springs, W.Va., but once she met Bob, she stopped seeing the other guy, Linda said. Bob and Violet were married Sept. 1, 1943.
“They were still holding hands in later years,” Linda said.
Bob served in the U.S. Army, worked in a sand mine for several years, then got a job as a manager at Breakall’s Grocery and Feed Store in Hancock. He then worked for Mack Trucks for 25 years, before retiring in June 1987.
The Goldens’ firstborn, Bobby, was born in the hospital while Bob was serving overseas in the U.S. Army during World War II. Violet thought she spent too much time in the hospital waiting for his birth.
When it was time for the second baby, Linda, Violet was determined not to get to the hospital until right before it was time. Instead, they waited too long and Linda was born at home.
The next day, they took their new baby over to Breakall’s to weigh her on the meat scales, which is why her birth certificate lists her weight at 8 pounds, with no ounces indicated, Linda said.
While her children were growing up, Violet did a lot of volunteer work. She completed a home course and earned her certification to become a licensed practical nurse right before Jackie was born, but never worked as a nurse.
It wasn’t until Jackie went to school that Violet began her paid career, which not surprisingly involved working with children.
Although she only worked for about five years, Violet worked with the Community Action Council’s migrant day-care program, as a teacher’s aide for the Head Start program and as a playground supervisor at Hancock Elementary School. Violet’s paycheck went to buy things for the children, Linda said.
With a heart for helping others, Violet also went door-to-door collecting money for the American Heart Association and sent her children out collecting for UNICEF, always involving other children, as well.
Violet had enjoyed good health most of her life, but after having a ministroke in 2002, “she started slipping,” Linda said. Violet also had Parkinson’s disease and her health deteriorated slowly. With the help of her family, she was able to stay in her home until the end.
Linda describes her mother as a communicator.
“I don’t think Mom ever met a stranger,” she said.
“She was very outgoing, dedicated to kids — her kids, their kids,” Kathy said.
“She was small, but feisty, too. She would threaten to wash our mouths out with soap. We listened to her because we knew she’d follow through. We respected her, too,” Dennie said.