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Velma 'Carlene' Cullison

July 13, 2013|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Russell and Velma "Carlene" Cullison are shown in this photo taken in 1998 at the celebration of their 40th wedding anniversary.
Submitted photo

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 Velma C. Cullison, who died June 27 at the age of 87. Her obituary was published in the June 28 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Velma “Carlene” Cullison was a gifted seamstress, and throughout her life, she used those skills to help others. Her creations are worn locally and around the world, thanks to her heart for mission work.

“She had a Viking sewing machine. She kind of wore out one and got another one,” said oldest daughter Carolyn Reel of Hagerstown.

Carlene was born to Howard and Matrona Myers on a farm in Porterstown, Md., between Sharpsburg and Keedysville.

Her mother didn’t realize she was having twins and had two daughters, which they named Velma and Thelma at the suggestion of one of the son’s teachers. Thelma died when she was 10 days old.

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Velma’s middle name was supposed to be Carlene, but was written as Caroline on her birth certificate.

They called her Carlene anyway.

The family also had seven sons and one other daughter. When Carlene was 6, the family moved to the Piper Farm in Sharpsburg and lived there for six years.

Her father bought what is known as Myers’ Charolais Farm near Clear Spring on Carlene’s 12th birthday.

She attended school through the 10th grade because her help was needed at home.

She wanted to be a nurse and needed Latin for those studies, but it wasn’t offered because there weren’t enough interested students. Instead, Carlene took home economics and learned to sew, a skill she used to help many.

The Myers family joined Hagerstown Bible Church, and Carlene was the first infant on the cradle roll, said youngest child Sharon Guidice of Smithsburg. It was the church where Carlene’s children would also grow up.

“Mom was a godly woman in so many ways,” Carolyn said. “She took us to church whenever the doors were opened, whether Sunday or Wednesday. If we were good in church, we received a Dilly Bar from the local Dairy Queen on Washington Street. A bag of 10 was only $1 then.”

Throughout her life, Carlene was an involved church member. She sang in the choir until age 86, sewed costumes for church programs, served as a deaconess, taught Sunday school, was involved with the Women’s Missionary Circle and did countless other ministries.

“Her joy was in serving and giving,” said Jeff Noll, pastor of music and Christian education at Hagerstown Bible Church. “With her sewing talents, she blessed not only people here at our church, but around the world. She extended her family by her generosity. She would look for people who needed a little encouragement and support.”

Carlene also sewed baby quilts and “wrap ’n go’s,” a hooded blanket that can be wrapped around a baby in their car seat or used as a bath towel, for the Hagerstown Area Pregnancy Center, which is next to the church.

Carlene also knitted and crocheted, made alterations and even sewed a sportscoat for her second husband, Russell, a 37-step process she said she wouldn’t repeat.

She answered to Mom, Mommy and Mama, but was affectionately known by many as Nanny.

“She was full of good works. She had a heart of gold and would do anything to help a person. She was like a mother to me. She bought me clothes, helped me, prayed for me,” said Pastor Dale Carver, senior pastor at Hagerstown Bible Church. “She was a stalwart person in our church.”

He added that she would speak her mind, even if she didn’t agree with you.

“If she had something to say, she’d say it straight up,” Dale said.

It was at a youth meeting at church that she met her first husband. He was stationed at Fort Ritchie.

They had five children in nine years, but he left when Sharon was 2 months old. Carlene and her three sons and two daughters moved in with her parents until she married “the love of my life,” Russell Cullison, on Feb. 2, 1958.

She met Russell when a niece set up a surprise blind date. Russell had one son.

“She loved her children. She’d do anything for ’em,” Carolyn said.

Both were divorced and vowed never to remarry, but were happily married for 43 years before his death in 2001. Carlene’s children called him Dad.

The family lived in a house on Pinesburg Road before buying a home on Marion Street, off Virginia Avenue, in Hagerstown in 1961 for $26,000.

“They were worried about paying the $150 a month mortgage,” Sharon said.

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