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Rejeanne Y. Moyer

April 13, 2013|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • This photo of Fred and Rejeanne Moyer was taken at an anniversary dinner their family hosted for them in the early 1990s.
Submitted photo

“The Baltimore Orioles had their first game without their biggest fan,” daughter Andrea Lescalleet of Hagerstown said of her mother, Rejeanne Moyer.

“She liked all sports, but baseball she loved the best,” said son Stephen “Steve” Moyer of Hagerstown.

Steve said his mother got interested in baseball when he started playing the sport, but she took more than a casual interest, an interest that grew after her husband died in 2004.

Years ago, Major League baseball games were not televised daily as they are now. Rejeanne would follow the games on a transistor radio.

Cal Ripken Jr. was her favorite player, and she had a knack for remembering the records of the players.

Born in Providence, R.I., to French-Canadian parents, Rejeanne Bruneau didn’t speak English until she was 5, when her family moved to the South End of Hagerstown.

Her father was hired as a design engineer for M.P. Moller Co., which prompted the move.

Rejeanne often was called Susie by friends who couldn’t pronounce her French name. She chose “Memaw” once her first grandchild was born in 1972, and everybody started calling her that.

The middle child, between an older sister and younger brother, Rejeanne married her high school sweetheart, Frederick “Fred” Moyer, on March 20, 1943. They grew up in the same neighborhood and were about six months apart in age.

“They were like two peas in a pod,” Andrea said. “They were very close.”

Andrea said her mother had told her that Fred’s father kept chickens, and Rejeanne would watch Fred over the fence between their yards feeding the chickens.

She was Catholic and graduated from St. Mary’s High School, while he graduated from Hagerstown High School. Both attended Hagerstown Business School.

Fred served in the U.S. Army for three years during World War II. When he found out he was being sent overseas, Rejeanne took the train to Edmond, Okla., where he was stationed, and they were wed. They were married for 61 years.

Overseas, Fred taught French to American soldiers so they could communicate with the local residents. He had taken French in high school and had learned more from Rejeanne.

While her new husband was away, Rejeanne worked at clerical jobs, and on the Washington County Hospital switchboard and later for the Betty Wynn answering service, which primarily answered calls for local businesses and doctors.

“She worked a lot when women didn’t work back then,” Steve said.

Fred returned home in 1946, and they settled into a happy marriage and life together. Andrea was born in December 1948, followed by Steve in January 1951.

“Her family — that was the most important thing for her,” Andrea said. “We never had a babysitter, ever.”

Fred worked as an accountant at various places, including for the railroad. Rejeanne took time off when their two children were born and worked part time most of her career.

The family lived in a Summit Avenue double, built by Fred’s grandfather, with family living in the other side. One day while Rejeanne was at work and Fred was watching the children, 2-year-old Steve wandered up the street to Gillan’s Drugstore, a walk he often made with his parents.

Rejeanne got a call at work from the drugstore, saying that Steve was there eating a pretzel. The next day, a fence went up around the Moyers’ yard, Andrea said.

Family birthdays seemed to come in clusters, with the majority in December and January. Rejeanne always reminded Steve that if he only had waited 15 more minutes to be born, he would have shared her Jan. 7 birthday.

“We were always celebrating together,” Andrea said. “Family was important.”

Steve wrote a tribute to his father when he died in August 2004, as well as one to his mother, which was read at the funeral by his wife, Barb. In both, his theme was “We were lucky.”

He described Rejeanne as “the CEO of mothers.” Even though she worked for most of their growing-up years, she was involved in their activities, whether it was Scouts, baseball or PTA.

Rejeanne’s involvement was shared by her husband.

Andrea said their friends were welcome at the Moyer house, where she held all-girl pajama parties.

“My parents always knew they wouldn’t get any sleep, but never said no,” Andrea said. “We played our records loud. Our friends were always welcome.”

Steve lamented that there was only one television and it was in the room where pajama parties and their parents’ card parties were held.

“They had a lot of parties before we got a second TV,” Steve said.

In addition to her participation in several card clubs, Rejeanne also bowled with a local league and would go to Reading, Pa., for tournaments.

Rejeanne learned to drive in her 40’s, but Fred liked to drive her around. He still was driving her four days before his unexpected death of a heart attack or stroke.

“They were good people, both of them,” Andrea said. “When my dad died, her life was never the same.”

Even though Rejeanne worked, she cooked dinner from scratch most nights.

“Her specialties were her homemade spaghetti and her pies,” Andrea said. “I’ve never had a pie like hers.”

Rejeanne made more cream pies than fruit pies, and was known for her homemade crusts. She said her secret was getting all of the ingredients to room temperature, using Crisco and substituting milk for water.

Her spaghetti sauce recipe came from an Italian cousin and took most of the day to prepare. It included about 100 small meatballs that were cooked in the sauce.

“The secret to her sauce was to start with burnt onions, which she strained the sauce through,” Steve said.

Once the three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren came along, Rejeanne couldn’t spoil them enough.

Andrea and her husband, Dennis, were living in Pittsburgh when their first child was born. Rejeanne knew Andrea was at the hospital, but a truck accident had knocked out power where Rejeanne was working, so Dennis wouldn’t be able to call once the baby was born.

Rejeanne drove over the Pennsylvania state line and called the hospital from a phone booth to give Dennis the phone number of where she was waiting. She waited an hour in a phone booth to hear about the birth of her grandson.

After Fred’s death, Rejeanne moved in with Andrea and Dennis. The last five years, due to her health, Rejeanne lived at Williamsport Nursing Home, with family faithfully visiting her.

“She made friends easy,” Steve said.

“She had a smile for everyone,” Andrea said. “She was a staff favorite.”

Rejeanne suffered a stroke on what would have been her 70th wedding anniversary and died eight days later.

“Mom, the family loves you. You were a special woman and a great mother. It’s now time to say goodbye. Little Jesus will take you to heaven in the sky. ‘We were lucky,’” were the words with which Steve concluded his tribute.

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 Rejeanne Y. Moyer, who died March 28 at the age of 90. Her obituary was published in the March 30 edition of The Herald-Mail.

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