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Susan R. McCarney

January 26, 2013|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Lennie and Susan McCarney, in front, pose for this picture with their daughters and son-in-laws. In the back are, from left, Erin Gay, Justin Gay, Kerri McCarney, Kelly Benner and Mike Benner.
Submitted photo

SMITHSBURG, Md. —

Susan McCarney was a woman in motion.

Her family said it was typical for her to have completed several loads of laundry and have the house cleaned by 7 a.m.

“She was always busy. She loved to clean, anything in the house, anybody’s house,” said Erin Gay of Martinsburg, W.Va., the middle of Susan’s three daughters.

Susan was the oldest of two daughters and always was a helper around the house. One of her six brothers remembers her standing on the picnic table as a child to hang laundry on the clothesline because she wasn’t tall enough to reach the line.

Her love for cleaning, which Susan got from her mother and grandmother, translated to a job as cleaning supervisor for the state of Maryland at Catoctin Summit, an adolescent substance abuse treatment facility in Sabillasville. In addition to her cleaning jobs, Susan also worked in the deli for several local grocery stores.

After she was diagnosed with cancer more than seven years ago and had to quit working, Susan threw her energy into cleaning her parents’ home and those of some of their older neighbors, along with driving them to doctor and hair appointments and to the grocery store.

“She loved to help her family,” said Kerri McCarney of Smithsburg. “She packed me and my dad’s lunches. She loved taking care of us.”

The girls had to make their beds before they left for school. Susan tried to get them to do the dishes and their own laundry, but took over when she felt they weren’t doing things to her standards.

“She’d wake us up every Saturday morning and say we’re having a party, a cleaning party,” said oldest daughter Kelly Benner of Maugansville.

Susan also was known for sharing her opinions.

“We never had any trouble knowing what she was thinking,” Kelly said.

“She spoke out of turn a lot, then would apologize,” Erin said with a laugh.

The close-knit family is at a loss without Susan’s support. Her daughters admitted they called her daily, up to four times a day.

“We just have always needed our mom,” Kerri said. “We were spoiled rotten.”

“She did so much for all of us,” Kelly said.

Susan Brezler was raised in the West End of Hagerstown, graduating from North Hagerstown High School in 1972. Leonard “Lennie” McCarney lived a block away and when he was a junior in high school, asked Susan, who was a sophomore, to the prom.

Lennie ended up canceling because he didn’t have a driver’s license and the friend who was driving them to the dance only would drive Lennie if he took his sister.

They connected later, though, when Lennie was tending bar at Club Lakewood in West Virginia and Susan and a female friend started stopping in.

“I like to dance and she was a good dancer,” Lennie said. “She was such a nice girl. She never talked bad about anybody.”

They dated for six to eight months before they got married on Aug. 13, 1976, which happened to be Friday the 13th.

The couple lived in an apartment on Dogwood Drive in Hagerstown until they bought their house on Chip’s Circle in Smithsburg in 1981, with the help of a mortgage program that required moving to a farming community, Lennie said.

All three daughters graduated from Smithsburg High School and are grateful to have grown up where they did.

Susan is remembered as a great cook, but despite her culinary skills, was not a baker. Lennie said early on, she knew he liked cherry pie and surprised him by baking a pie. The real surprise was that Susan hadn’t pitted the cherries.

“I about broke a tooth, but she was a good cook. Her mother taught both of ’em well,” said Lennie, who enjoyed her ham slippery potpie and cucumber salad.

Other specialties included roast beef and mashed potatoes.

“We had a hot meal every night,” Kelly said.

Susan loved to eat and was blessed with a metabolism to match her appetite, in part because she always was moving.

“She’d get an appetizer, entree and dessert and eat all of it, and she was not a big person,” Erin said.

A “french fry fanatic,” Susan would get a big bucket of Thrasher’s fries at the beach, with no intention of sharing them, Kerri said. She also loved chocolate lollipops — chocolate sno-cones topped with ice cream.

Family gatherings revolved around food, and the Lushbaugh family reunion with Susan’s mother’s family was held every September at Martin L. “Marty” Snook Memorial Park in Halfway.

The family Thanksgiving for 50 to 60 people was held at the Alsatia Club, where Lennie and Susan’s stepfather were members, because no one had enough room for all of the family members. Everyone brought a dish to share and there were several turkeys, ham, roast beef, 40 pounds of mashed potatoes and a table full of desserts.

“We had a wonderful life,” said Kerri, who survived brain surgery after a four-wheeler accident when she was 17.

In addition to family, close friends were an important part of Susan’s life. Susan was part of “The Fab Four,” a group of close friends in the neighborhood who would get together for dinner once a month.

They started the evening at 6 p.m., stretching their conversation well past midnight, often past the restaurant’s closing time.

“Until they chased ’em out,” Lennie said.

The family attended Trinity Lutheran Church in Smithsburg for years, and most recently, Susan went to Ringgold Church of Christ, where she was baptized in January 2012.

“The thing about Mom was her faith in God,” Kelly said. “That’s how she made it seven years.”

It was a colonoscopy in 2005 that led to a diagnosis of colorectal cancer. By 2008, the cancer had spread to her lungs.

Susan’s health was relatively stable until October 2011, when she had to be hospitalized. A lesion was found on her brain.

The gamma knife surgery that works on 90 percent of patients didn’t work on Susan, but she was determined to be around to see the birth of her first grandchild.

Granddaughter Hannah Benner, fondly known as “Hannah Banana,” was born Feb. 7, 2012.

“She was in the delivery room with me and stayed for a week,” Kelly said.

Susan was getting weaker, though. In April 2012, the day after Lennie lost his job, Susan woke up able only to drag her left leg.

She fell and broke her back in the summer, and by August, was bedridden and depressed, but tried to keep her spirits up for the sake of her family.

“She protected us,” Kelly said.

“From more than we ever knew until she died,” Kerri said.

“She was amazing,” Kelly said. “She taught us to be strong and how to do well.”

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 Susan R. McCarney, who died Jan. 11 at the age of 58. Her obituary was published in the Jan. 15 edition of The Herald-Mail.

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