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Doris B. Glessner

April 20, 2013|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • This undated photo of Doey Glessner "captures her essence" youngest son Neal said.
Submitted photo

Doris “Doey” Glessner was known for her spunk and style. Her zest for life was contagious, and she shared her life lessons with others by example.

Youngest son Neal Glessner of Hagerstown said an appropriate epitaph for his mother would be, “She left a little sparkle wherever she went.”

Even Doris’ name changed over time. It started when older sister Evelyn’s daughter took to calling her Doey because she couldn’t pronounce Doris. That side of the family began using the nickname, then a few more special people, then over time, more and more, Neal said.

“She became very fond of people calling her that,” including her grandchildren, Neal said.

“When people called her Doey, it was a term of affection,” he said.

It was her passion for living life to the fullest that would get her through several difficult medical chapters in the family.

Doey was born in Chambersburg, Pa., the youngest of J. Marlin and Marie Burkholder’s son and two daughters. She was 4 when her mother died. Her father remarried and had two more daughters.

They moved to a horse farm in Shady Grove, Pa., and her father showed horses from Canada to Florida. The family had to leave its Mennonite faith behind because he couldn’t show horses and remain Mennonite, said one of the younger sisters, Beverly “Bev” Hajek of Waynesboro, Pa.

“One of our walking horses was presented to Vice President Lyndon Johnson on the Capitol steps,” Bev said.

Doey met Robert “Bob” Glessner Jr. at a Valentine’s dance in 1957, the year she graduated from Greencastle (Pa.) High School. They married in November of that year, moved to Chambersburg and son Stephen “Steve” was born in September 1958.

A yearlong move to Nashville in 1970 allowed Doey the opportunity to usher at the Grand Ole Opry.

“She said she got to meet a lot of celebrities, but I can’t tell you who,” Neal said.

The Glessners returned to Chambersburg, where Paige and Neal were born. Bob became a successful commercial banker before they moved to Hagerstown in 1972 and started their own security company in the basement of their home.

Doey answered the phones, set up installation appointments and did the bookkeeping, while Bob did the sales, installation and service calls.

The couple separated in 1991, but did not divorce.

Neal said as the company grew, he can remember sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast and the employees would start arriving. The company eventually moved to its own office space when it outgrew the Glessner home, Neal said.

Now called Glessner Technologies, the company has grown to more than 8,000 customers with 40 employees and is run by Neal. Steve is a lawyer and lives in Frederick, Md.

Education was important to Doey. Her father and father-in-law only had attended school through eighth grade.

“She wanted us all to go to college,” said Steve, who admitted he really wasn’t interested, but then ended up going to law school.

Doey was a high school graduate, and in her 30s took classes at Hagerstown Junior College with friend and neighbor Norma Wachter Falcone. She took continuing education courses throughout her life.

“It was just the idea of going to college,” Bev said.

Doey and Norma met when the Glessners moved across the street from the Wachters on Hamilton Boulevard in 1972.

Norma had five children, who became close friends with the Glessner children, with Norma’s daughters baby-sitting for Paige and Neal and her sons running errands for Doey.

It was over countless cups of tea at Doey’s kitchen counter that the neighbors “solved the world’s problems” and shared issues in their own lives, Norma said.

“She always wanted to share a cup of tea,” Norma said. “When I think of how many cups of tea we’ve shared over the years, I can’t even count.”

Despite Norma’s move to New Jersey, she and Doey never lost touch during their more than 40-year friendship.

“She was always helping others, always doing for others,” Norma said. “She was a good neighbor, friend, mom and sister.”

Doey supported Norma, who now lives in Frederick, through her son’s death from cancer at age 25 in 1993. Seven years later, the roles were reversed when Paige died at age 34 in 2000 after fighting breast cancer for three years.

“How does this happen? How do we get through this?” Norma said they wondered.

Instead of feeling sorry for herself, Doey focused her love for Paige, who shared her mother’s radiant personality, on fundraising for Breast Cancer Awareness-Cumberland Valley.

Through “Reaching for the Moon,” the event she founded and chaired for nine years, $300,000 was raised to help pay for mammograms and chemotherapy treatments for women who couldn’t afford it.

For most of those years, the event was held at Don and Jone Bowman’s Milestone Farm in Williamsport.

“She just went to so much trouble to make it a wonderful event,” said Jone, who is going through a battle with breast cancer. “I know she did it in memory of her daughter. Every time we were together, we’d talk about Paige. She was such a wonderful person.”

Through her involvement with several community organizations and her love for bridge and travel, Doey developed a large circle of friends. 

“She had a lot of friends. She had a way of making each one feel special,” Steve said.

It was the purchase of the Fountain Head home in 1983 that sparked Doey’s passion for real estate. She went on to have a successful real-estate career and worked in the field until Paige’s cancer diagnosis in 1997.

After almost 30 years in the family’s Fountain Head home, Doey had happily downsized to a new duplex in the Emerald Pointe development in November 2012.

The move was prompted by a “wakeup call” after Doey had a stroke about a year ago, Neal said.

A lower maintenance home was in order. Each room was beautifully appointed, awaiting family and friends.

“She had so much fun picking colors and decorating,” Bev said.

Doey was looking forward to several projects, including extending the back porch and screening in a portion of it, Neal said. There were a few framed pieces still waiting to be hung.

In the midst of unpacking boxes in her new home with Bev’s help, Doey doubled over with pain. Bev rushed her sister to the doctor and she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which already had metastasized.

While unpacking boxes, Doey found her mother’s death certificate. Doey’s mother had died when she was 4 and until discovering the death certificate, she didn’t realize that her mother might have died of ovarian cancer.

Doey was close with her six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, but had a special bond with grandson Holden Hershey. They both lost their mothers to cancer at about the same age.

Doey died seven weeks after her late-February surgery for cancer. Once she returned home, a schedule was put together of family and friends who took turns staying with her so she had 24/7 care.

“There isn’t anyone on this earth who prepared me more for life than my mom. She wasn’t done teaching me,” Neal said in his eulogy.

Neal said as Doey was nearing the end of her life, she was ready to be with God and Paige, but would miss “my babies.”

“She seemed anxious to go, like there was a party she didn’t want to miss,” Neal said in his eulogy.

Doey now rests next to her beloved Paige at Rest Haven Cemetery.

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 Doris B. Glessner, who died April 10 at the age of 73. Her obituary was published in the April 12 edition of The Herald-Mail.

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