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Franklin P. Woodring

February 09, 2013|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Frank and Suanne Woodring are shown on their wedding day on July 17, 1965.
Submitted photo

For those who knew Franklin “Frank” Woodring, his name was synonymous with Maryland Cracker Barrel magazine, University of North Carolina Tar Heels basketball, and his love for writing, history, teaching and people, especially his family.

For 22 years, Frank was the heart and soul of Maryland Cracker Barrel magazine. He was editor/publisher of the magazine that combined his love for writing with his love for history.

“He had a real gift for talking to people and writing,” wife Suanne said.

It was a team effort, with his wife of 47 years, Suanne Woodring, handling the subscriptions and business side of the bimonthly publication. Son Chad Woodring of Boonsboro was their computer guru.

Their 1991 purchase of the magazine coincided with Chad’s graduation from high school. The couple’s commute to work required a short walk to the business office in their home near Fairplay.

“He was restless and looking for something to do,” Suanne said. “He saw an ad for Cracker Barrel in the newspaper. We were a real team and enjoyed it very much. It was a labor of love.”

Frank did most of the research, interviewing and writing, assisted by associate editors. This career came after working as a TTS operator at The Herald-Mail, where he punched the tape that was fed into the linotype machine, as a sports reporter and 31 years in the teaching profession.

“He loved history. Cracker Barrel was something he loved. People said they were going to miss his writing,” said oldest brother Richard Woodring of Augusta, Ga. 

Frank was one of Hiram and Nettie Woodring’s four sons. The second oldest, Frank, was 13 when their father died of a heart attack.

Raised in Hagerstown’s West End, the “Woodring Boys” were constant companions and “did a lot of brother stuff, as much as we could,” said youngest brother Deane Woodring of Waynesboro, Pa.

After her husband’s death, family members didn’t think Nettie could handle raising four sons on her own and suggested she put the boys in an orphanage.

Although she had never worked outside of the home, Nettie got a job as a housekeeper to support the family and keep them together.

“To be honest with you, I don’t know how she made ends meet,” Deane said. “We never did without. We were pretty close-knit.”

The boys defied expectations. All four graduated from South Hagerstown High School and went on to college.

“Their mom was so proud all four got four-year degrees, that three were teachers and Richard had a doctorate,” Chad said. “Dad was proud of that.”

Rich served as a youth pastor and Christian education director. He works in continuing education at the Medical College of Georgia.

“She had a strong, silent partner — her Lord,” Richard said. “Her faith in the Lord was very strong. We played and prayed together and stayed together.”

Frank and Suanne, who lived in Funkstown, met in the youth group at Grace Brethren Church in Hagerstown. Suanne’s parents, Fred and Bonnie Kuhn, were youth leaders.

“We laugh about being the best chaperoned couple around,” Suanne said.

She admits she noticed Frank for the first time at a 1962 youth rally in Martinsburg, W.Va. A couple of months later, they went to a youth rally in Washington, D.C., and Suanne made sure she was in Frank’s tour group.

Under the dome of the U.S. Capitol, Frank, who was four years older, asked Suanne if she had a comb he could borrow, a line the family still laughs about. They started dating after that, when Suanne was a high school sophomore.

The couple married in July 1965 and moved to Indiana in January 1966 to attend Grace College.

Frank already had taken classes at Hagerstown Junior College, now Hagerstown Community College, so he finished in 1 1/2 years with a bachelor’s degree with a major in history and minor in English. Suanne completed her degree in education in 1970.

The couple started looking for jobs back in Washington County. Suanne signed up with Washington County Public Schools, then got a call from Heritage Academy.

She already had been hired, but asked if they needed an English teacher, which they did. Frank took that job and taught and coached there for 22 years.

The school was a year old and Frank started the school newspaper and yearbook and was the junior class adviser for more than 20 years.

Chad, a lieutenant with the Hagerstown Police Department, graduated from Heritage Academy in 1991, with fond memories of riding to and from school with his father. He also was coached by his father in basketball and baseball.

After retiring from Heritage, Frank worked as a substitute teacher for Washington County Public Schools for nine years, often subbing for Suanne.

“He liked meeting people, talking to people,” Suanne said. “He was a people person. Especially the students — he listened to them and seemed to understand them.”

“I always think of Frank with stories involved. He had lots of stories and if he met you for the first time, he wanted to know your story,” said Suzanne Woodring, Lee’s wife.

One of the few things that would keep Frank inside was watching University of North Carolina basketball. He was a devoted Tar Heels fan, which stemmed from his admiration of longtime coach Dean Smith.

Another great love of Frank’s was his two grandchildren, Clare and Lance Woodring.

“My wife, Dawn, and I kind of feel like celebrities,” Chad said. “When we go to the bank, they know us and have seen pictures of the grandkids.”

Frank (Granddad) and Suanne (Nana) enjoyed watching Clare and Lance throw pennies in the fountain at Valley Mall. Frank once gave each of the grandchildren a roll of pennies, which they went through in no time, Suanne said.

“I think of family when I think of Frank,” Carole said. “Everybody meant something to him, for different reasons. His son meant everything to him.”

The Woodring boys had their own style of humor.

“The Woodring humor — you never know where it was going,” said youngest brother Deane Woodring of Waynesboro, Pa.

It was described by Richard as a “dry sense of humor,” with Suanne and sisters-in-law Carole Woodring and Suzanne Woodring, both of Waynesboro, Pa., referencing a fair amount of teasing between the brothers.

“We called it picking with words. It was nice picking,” brother Lee Woodring said.

Another family trait was the long goodbyes. When the family would meet somewhere and were ready to go their separate ways, they’d give hugs and say their goodbyes, then would walk out to the parking lot and talk for another half hour, Deane said.

“It was almost like we didn’t like to say goodbye,” Richard said.

Even though he never smoked, Frank was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2011. They thought the disease was under control, but it came back in the fall of 2012.

“He had been deteriorating, but he went faster than we expected,” Suanne said.

In the last year, Richard said Frank had shared that the thing he was going to miss most were Suanne and not being able to see his grandchildren grow up.

“He loved his family,” Richard said. “There was no doubt about that. He’d do anything for them.”

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 Franklin P. Woodring, who died Jan. 26 at the age of 70. His obituary was published in the Jan. 28 edition of The Herald-Mail.

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