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The Catoctin Banner

The Chronicle Press in Emmitsburg has a solid history of publishing newspapers. Ironically, The Catoctin Banner can trace its roots there as well. Under the management of Art Elder, the Chronicle Press published an ad flier called The Banner for several years prior to the publication’s transfer to Lori Smith Zentz. Lori took over the layout and publication of the piece and gave it a new mission with her first edition published in June of 1995. Lori said, “I was so excited when Art Elder at the Chronicle Press offered me the paper.”

According to Lori, Bo Cadle was asked to take over The Banner, but he declined and referred Art to Lori. Lori had become acquainted with Bo when submitting information for the community newspaper he published for Emmitsburg residents, The Emmitsburg Regional Dispatch.

At the time, Lori was leaving a job with the Y to start her own marketing and promotions company at home. It was her dream to be able to publish a newspaper.

Though The Banner was a publication originating in Emmitsburg, with the transfer to Lori, she focused on Thurmont to compliment Bo’s coverage. Her mission statement read: “To provide a friendly source of community news and information for residents of Thurmont and surrounding communities; and to promote a sense of community pride and spirit.”

Initially, The Banner was basically a newsletter of eight pages. It swiftly grew to 20 pages. Then, when it changed to a larger newsprint format with the January 1997 edition, the page count averaged about 16 pages. It was spot color blue print throughout the publication.

Lori said, “In 1995, we didn’t have the internet the way that we have the internet now. Things were not easily found. You had to make phone calls and read newspapers, and research by going to the library. Now, we’ve grown and everything is digital, but people still enjoy picking up a newspaper and reading.”

The Catoctin Banner

With the June 2000 edition, the publication’s name was changed to The Catoctin Banner, and the coverage area grew to include the region that it still covers today.

Lori was featuring some quality writers who provided engaging content, while community groups and citizens shared their good news to be published. George W. Wireman was a well-known local historian in Thurmont. He joined the Banner after the Glade Times and Mountain Mirror newspaper in Walkersville, where he was a journalist, closed. He wrote the “Roving Ron and Traveling Terri,” the “Then and Now,” and the “This and That” columns. “George Wireman was such a good advocate and helpful resource for The Banner,” said Lori.

Anne W. Cissel, representing the Thurmont Historical Society, wrote the “Thurmont Scrapbook” column and Christine Maccabee wrote “Short Essays in Human Nature.”

Even as a small community newspaper, The Catoctin Banner saw its share of national action. Thurmont Elementary School was the media hub for the Israeli Peace Talks at Camp David in 2000. There, Lori and George met reporters from all over the world.

Lori went to the White House to report the local Challenger League playing baseball on the White House lawn. She had a tour of Marine One. Her then-school-aged daughter, Taylor, went along as her junior reporter and wrote about the experience for school. Lori said, “Little Thurmont was making such big news!”

After the transition of the newspaper to Deb Abraham Spalding with the October 2007 edition, Lori retired form her career in marketing and communications. She took six years off to volunteer, take care of her kids, and help at her husband’s business. She now serves as an administrative assistant at Catoctin High School, where part of her duties includes publishing the CHS bi-weekly newsletter.

Lori said, “I’m excited that it’s [The Catoctin Banner] been around for 25 years, and that Deb is still staying true to the original mission. I really wanted to help the community to see the good.”

Our Contributors

Lori published The Catoctin Banner as a one-person operation with some paid writers. When Deb took over in October of 2007, The Catoctin Banner became a project of her E Plus Graphics business in Emmitsburg. She worked hard to grow it. It was, and still is, direct-mailed to households in zip codes 21788, 21778, 21727, 21780, and 21719. Free copies are put out for pickup in Taneytown, Keymar, Woodsboro, Smithsburg, and north Frederick in Maryland; and Blue Ridge Summit, Rouzerville, Waynesboro, and Fairfield in Pennsylvania.

Deb inherited a number of key people in the transition from Lori. George Wireman stayed on to write “This and That” until his death in January 2012. A number of other volunteers and writers merged to form a diverse Banner Team including Jim Houck, Jr.; Theresa Dardanell; Michele Cuseo; Carie Stafford; Aaron J. Heiner; Joseph Kirchner; Christine O’Connor; and many others who have since moved on to other endeavors, but may still contribute from time to time.

John Nickerson, a.k.a. Gnarly Artly, our cartoonist, created our full-color Banner masthead logo. He even created different versions of it for different seasons.

Current staff and contributors have been steadfast in their commitment to the community and the team. They include James Rada, Jr., contributing writer and editor; Michele Tester, managing editor and layout design; Maxine Troxell, webmaster and “Taste of the Past” columnist; Blair Garrett, contributing writer and multimedia manager; Barbara Abraham, editor and distributor; Jeanne Angleberger, “Health Jeanne” columnist; Jack Davis, distributor; Anita DiGregory, “Catoctin Kids” columnist; Joan Fry, contributing writer and distributor; Ava Morlier, “Culinary Student” columnist; Ana Morlier, “Gardening Gangster” columnist; Dr. Thomas Lo, “Ask Dr. Lo” columnist; Christine Maccabee, “On The Wild Side” colunmist; John Nickerson, cartoon artist; Valerie Nusbaum, “Happily Ever After” columnist; Priscilla Rall, “Veteran Spotlight” columnist; Buck Reed, “Supermarket Gourmet” columnist; and Denise Valentine, “Tickling Our Tastebuds” columnist.

The main person who made a huge difference for Deb was Grace Eyler. She started working at E Plus in 2008, soon after graduating from Catoctin High School. Grace learned the graphic design skills that Deb knew, and then passed Deb’s skills and speed. Many know Grace as the face of E Plus Graphics and Promotions, where she now serves as the manager.

The Catoctin Banner Newzine

In 2008, The Catoctin Banner became full-color. Printing technology had advanced to the point that it was affordable to do so. After Deb and team launched a magazine project that failed, The Catoctin Banner was reformatted to include some of the elements of the magazine. In June 2019, the first Catoctin Banner Newzine was published. This change included a full-page photo on the front cover and layout styles that were less news format and more magazine. The newzine format is still being used.

Michele Tester is The Catoctin Banner’s layout artist. She has incorporated styles and design elements that make reading more fun. Every month she begins with a blank slate and somehow, she creates a finished project that really deserves recognition and praise.

Banner Advertisers

The Catoctin Banner exists because of its advertisers! We are so grateful. Without them, there would be no Banner! The costs of publishing have increased 300 percent from 2007 to 2020. Every month, games are included in The Catoctin Banner in order to draw the reader’s attention to the advertisers. Hot links to advertisers’ web addresses take the online reader to the advertiser’s website when they click on an ad. Reminders to “visit our advertisers’ businesses and mention that you saw their ad in The Catoctin Banner when you do” are included throughout every edition.

With that said, there are several advertisers who have been on board with The Catoctin Banner from the first edition, and there are advertisers who have advertised since Deb took over in 2007. These advertisers are the base that allow us to publish.

As a thank you to advertisers, as long as they don’t break their agreement—whether it be a continuous advertising commitment or a six-month contract—their rates have not been raised…for as many as 13 years!

Here are the advertisers who have been on board since at least 2007: J&B Real Estate; Pondscapes; Catoctin Mountain Spa & Tub; Catoctin Veterinary Clinic; Main Street Groomers; Catoctin Mountain Orchard; Rich Shank, now with Shank and Associates; Mountain View Lawn Service; Marie’s Beauty Salon; Main Street Upholstery; Bill’s Auto Body, now D&J Auto Body and Towing; Mike’s Auto Body; Nails By Anne; and Hillside Turkey Farms.

Turn the page to see who the longest running, continuous advertiser is!

J&B Real Estate has been advertising continuously since July 1995!

In the very first edition in 1995, it’s interesting to note that Dr. John Hagemann of Catoctin Chiropractic in Thurmont (now Center of Life Chiropractic), Peking Palace, and Nationwide Insurance (Zentz Insurance in Thurmont) are the only advertisers who are still in business.

These advertisers have never stopped advertising since signing up: Nutritional Healing Center; Affordable Self Storage; Baker Tree Service; C&K Grooming; Capital Womens Care of Frederick; Carriage House Inn; Catoctin Church of Christ; Catoctin Mountain Flooring; Complete Automotive; Craigs Mower & Marine; Delphey Construction; Denny Brown Custom Painting; Doug’s Auto; East Park Automotive; Emmitsburg Tattoo Company; Frederick County Chimney Sweeps; Gary The Barber; Gateway Automotive; Gene’s Towing; Getz Computers & Communications; Graceham Moravian Church; Harriet Chapel; Here’s Clydes; Hessong Bridge Contractors; His Place; KLS Home Improvements; Lawyer’s Automotive; Little Moore Realty; Long & Foster, Taylor Huffman Team; McLaughlin’s Heating Oils & LP Gas; Melissa Wetzel, CPA; Mick’s Plumbing & Heating; Nusbaum & Ott Painting; Ott House Pub; The Palms Restaurant; Quality Tire & Auto; ReMax, Kim Clever; Scenic View Orchard; Senior Benefits Services; Slater & Slater PC; Spike’s Auto Care; Squeaky Clean; and Tracy’s Auto Repair.

Thank you to each and every one of you for your commitment to the mission and the community!

The Favorites

Over the years, a number of columns have come and gone. Deb wrote a “Who Am I?” column for five years. In it, clues about a mystery person were given, and readers would call in their guesses. The next month, an article would answer the clues. The person who garnered the most guesses, by far, was Donald Lewis of Thurmont. Later, James Rada, Jr. wrote a Veterans Day cover article in 2014 about Mr. Lewis’ active military service during the coordinated D-Day attack on German forces at Normandy, France. This was one of our most popular articles.

In addition to his military service, Mr. Lewis served a variety of roles in our communities. He and his wife, Freda, owned a business on the square in Thurmont for many years. He served as Thurmont’s mayor and as a Frederick County commissioner.

The Bessie Darling Murder and the Raid on the Blue Blazes Still were popular historic topics. George Wireman and Spencer Watson both wrote versions of the Bessie Darling Murder, and George Wireman wrote about the Blue Blazes Still Raid.

Though there is not one standout in the “Spotlight” column that Theresa Dardanell wrote for several years, this was a special column that helped us appreciate church congregations, EMS and fire companies, and public service organizations.

Valerie Nusbaum’s “Happily Ever After” column receives the most expressed acknowledgement with emails and comments. She is humorous and often makes correlations that hit home. She makes it easier to know we’re all in this community together.

The Catoctin Banner now showcases a lot of quality content, from history and current events by Jim Rada, Jr. to cooking and baking with Denise Valentine, Buck Reed, Maxine Troxell, and now Ava Morlier, or environmental awareness with Christine Maccabee. Our writers are greatly appreciated and valuable to our community.

We hope we haven’t missed anyone in expressing our history and our thanks. But, when you start naming names, it’s easy to do, so please forgive us.

Thanks to all who send in good news, share photos, or contribute in any way to this project. We all work together to celebrate the good things, good people, and fabulous history of the Northern Frederick County Region. You’re the best! Cheers to 25 years!

Members of the Banner Team are shown in front of the E Plus Store at 1 E. Main Street in Emmitsburg. Some are photoshopped in the photo (obviously). From left (standing) Buck Reed, Supermarket Gourmet; Ava Morlier, Stories From A Culinary Student; Ana Morlier, Gardening Gangster; Jeanne Angleberger, Health Jeanne; Anita DiGregory, Catoctin Kids; Blair Garrett, Writer & Multimedia Manager; Maxine Troxell, Webmaster & Taste of the Past; and Valerie Nusbaum, Happily Ever After; (seated, top to bottom) John Nickerson, Gnarly Artly Cartoonist; Gracie Eyler, Advertising Sales & Design; Deb Abraham Spalding, Publisher; and James Rada, Jr., Contributing Editor. Not pictured: Michele Tester, Managing Editor & Layout Designer; Barbara Abraham, Editor  & Distributor; Jack Davis, Distributor; Joan Fry, Contributor & Distributor; Dr. Thomas Lo, Ask Dr. Lo; Christine Maccabee, On The Wild Side; Priscilla Rall, Veteran Spotlight; and Denise Valentine, Tickling Our Tastebuds.

The late George Wireman was a long-time writer for The Catoctin Banner. He also wrote for several other newspapers. He was Thurmont’s honorary resident historian, a local WTHU radio broadcaster, a volunteer conductor for the Walkersville Southern Railroad, and quite a character to know. He took great pride in building a huge model railroad display that was housed in his basement. Every December, he hosted a model train display open house at his house in Thurmont. For the past several years, a model railroad display has been available in Thurmont, and this year it will be located in the Thurmont Plaza Shopping Center at 224 N. Church Street, Ste C, on select days in December. This is a courtesy of the Frederick County Society of Model Engineers. See the Holiday Train Display ad in this edition.

Taken from a December 1995 Banner Newspaper, adjusted for this printing.

Local model railroad enthusiast George Wireman would welcome the public to his house every December to see his model railroad set up. George was a long-time lover of trains, an interest he credits to his dad. “My dad worked for the Western Maryland Railroad. I guess that’s where I got the bug.” It probably helped, too, that George was a frequent railroad traveler. In 1939 and 1940, George attended Hagerstown Business College and would catch the train every morning in Thurmont and every evening after school in Hagerstown.

George’s model railroad setup, called the “Monocacy Valley,” was named after the railroad of the same name, a steam engine that ran from Frederick to Thurmont and was a branch of the Washington-Frederick-Gettysburg Railway.

George took his model railroad very seriously. It took up nearly his entire basement and included a mountain, representing Catoctin Mountain, that was three-feet high and eight-feet long with a tunnel for the train line. There was also a bridge over a canyon that took George three months to complete. “I could have put the bridge together in one night, but I decided to haul each piece of ‘lumber’ for the bridge on one of the freight trains. I then used a model crane to lower each piece of lumber—made it more fun that way.”

The model railroad had two running lines of track, with various switches along the route to send the train into the railyard or onto a different track. His collection of trains included over one hundred freight cars; five different sets of passenger cars, including replicas of the Western Maryland Railroad and popular Amtrak; and numerous old-type coaches and locomotives.

What made the “Monocacy Valley” railroad even more interesting was the village in-between the lines of track. You’d find a vast array of familiar businesses, people, cars, trucks, and even an airport complete with planes and a terminal tower. George explained that “the village is not modeled after a particular community; instead, it pertains to things of my lifetime,” such as The Cozy Inn, where he used to be a host; Zentz Chevrolet-Buick because he used to go to school with Carroll Zentz; Nations Bank, where George did his banking; the WTHU radio tower, representing his involvement with our local radio station; a building for the Glade-Times Mirror, for whom George was a journalist; and even one for The Catoctin Banner since he also wrote for it.

You would see Hobb’s Hardware, the Thurmont Co-op, the police station, fire station, and even a very special Eisenhower memorial, built because of George’s fondness for this former president. There were billboards along the railroad and throughout the village to advertise local establishments, such as Hoffman’s Market, Kountry Kitchen, and the (then) Catoctin Mountain Trains and Hobbies.

There was so much to enjoy about George’s railroad that it was a must-see event.

George said, “I thoroughly enjoy working on the railroad; the work is never done. It’s a barrel of fun for me, and I enjoy sharing it with others.”

Maybe George’s railroad will put the railroad “bug” into someone else.

Blair Garrett

For frontline workers, the approach to each workday remains the same. While the world changes rapidly around us with global pandemics and novel vaccines, the essential workers who have put the time in day after day have realized a new normal.

It’s going on ten months since COVID-19 reached the United States, and there is still not quite an end in sight. When put in situations of great adversity, individuals find ways to adjust to survive or push past a difficult time. It’s been a period of great challenge for an entire nation and beyond, from top to bottom.

Yet, the people who continue to provide the rest of us with essential services head to work every day with the same attitude. Just keep going, and one day we won’t need so many limitations, precautions, and restrictions on where we can go. But until then, the reality is that we don’t know who could have the virus, and we don’t know its long-term effects. People who have to work through this situation have to take a risk each day, and that can be tough to manage when you don’t know how it’s all going to play out.

“At first, it was scary,” UPS Driver Alex Serpi recalled. “We really didn’t know what was going on.” But like the rest of the essential workers, Serpi found a new normal in an abnormal world. “After a couple of months of it, we became numb to it,” he said.

Had the panic of the pandemic ended in early summer like many anticipated, we would be looking back on the chaos that was the start of 2020 with strong disdain. Unfortunately, it has dragged on throughout the rest of the year, and it’s now been long enough to make what was at one point a brief nightmare feel like just another day.

“Now, it’s the same situation because we’re tired and numb from it,” Serpi said. “There’s an unknown to it. The sentiment of a new, masked normal has permeated our everyday lives. “Where we’re going, who we’re seeing, what’s going to happen. You get to the point where you become desensitized to it.”  

We are now heading into winter with our hopes set for spring for small businesses, bars, restaurants, and even sports to return to the old normal. This winter will be more of the same social distancing, masks, and limited-capacity public spaces. Still, there is light at the end of this dark tunnel, even if we haven’t seen much of it this year.

The notion of becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable is something grocery store workers, in particular, have had to deal with throughout 2020. At Jubilee Foods, Margaret Burns has effectively navigated the scary unknown that followed the initial pandemic announcement what feels like an eternity ago.

“In 35 years of me working in retail, I’ve never experienced anything of this magnitude,” Burns said. “We just went at it head-on, tried to listen to the information and take it one day at a time.”   

No matter what happens, everywhere from small mountain towns to big cities will keep plugging away because of the efforts and consistency of those who connect with the public every day. 

The ‘just keep swimming’ approach from millions of Americans in essential business has been admirable, and they certainly have not received enough recognition for it.

Whether you are a frontline worker who deals with the public on a day-to-day basis, or you have family or friends who do, we all need to be mindful and appreciative of these everyday heroes whose continued efforts provide the country with things they need to keep a sense of normalcy alive.

“You just keep it going; that’s all you can do,” Serpi expressed. We all need to just keep it going, and eventually, businesses and individuals affected by this situation most will be back on their feet.

In these current challenging times, it is sometimes painstakingly difficult to find a reason to smile. Yet, in truth, you really don’t need to look far. It is actually the simplest things that bring us the most joy. U.K. healthcare group Bupa sponsored a survey that asked 2,000 people what brought them happiness. Below are the top 21 feel-good results. How many do you agree with?

1.     Sleeping in a freshly made bed

2.     Feeling the sun on your face

3.     People saying “thank you” or a random act of kindness from a stranger

4.     Finding money in unexpected places

5.     Having time to myself

6.     Laughing so hard it hurts

7.     Snuggling on the sofa with a loved one

8.     Freshly made bread

9.     Doing something for others

10.    The clean feeling after a shower

11.    When your favorite song comes on the radio

12.    Finding a bargain in the sales

13.    Listening to the rainfall/thunderstorms when you’re inside

14.    Freshly brewed tea/coffee

15.    The thrill of personal achievement

16.    Having a long, hot bath

17.    Seeing a fresh coating of snow

18.    Freshly cut grass

19.    Chocolate melting in your mouth

20.    Doing something active outdoors (e.g. bike ride, run, country walk)

21.    Smell of bacon cooking in the morning


James Rada, Jr.

While the national election may be tied up in the courts for some time yet, the results for Frederick County are clear. Most people stayed home and voted for Joe Biden as President of the United States.

While President Donald Trump commanded large leads in the early voting and Election Day totals, more than three times as many people voted for Biden over Trump by mail. The final tally in the county was 61,692 votes for Trump and 73,491 votes for Biden (44.3% vs. 52.8%). The Libertarian, Green, and Bread and Roses parties also picked up 3,050 votes in the county.

For our U.S. Representative in District 8, Frederick County went for Republican Gregory Coll (57.2%) over Democrat Jamie Raskin (42.6%). However, the district covers more than Frederick County, and Raskin, the incumbent, won re-election.

Other county races included:

Board of Education (Vote for 3)

Sue Johnson (21.5%)

Jason “Mr. J.” Johnson (16.3%)

David Bass (15.1%)

Rae M. Gallagher (14.6%)

Lois Jarman (13.9%)

Dean Rose (13.8%)

Judge of the Circuit Court—Theresa M. Adams (97.7%), Others (2.3%)

Judge, Court of Special Appeals At Large—E. Gregory Wells to Continue, Yes (86.6%), No (13.4%)

Judge, Court of Special Appeals—Kathryn Grill Graeff to Continue, Yes (86.2%), No (13.8%)

Local Ballot Questions

All four county ballot questions concerned charter amendments, and all four passed with more than 75 percent approval.

Local Charter Amendment A: Council Non-interference

This Charter Amendment amends the Frederick County Charter to require the County Executive to provide any information that is requested by an individual County Council member that is for the purpose of introducing and evaluating legislation or to engage in the review and monitoring of Government programs, activities, and policy implementation.

Local Charter Amendment B: Borrowing limitations

This Charter Amendment amends the Frederick County Charter to reduce the percentage of assessable property the County can pledge from debt from 5 to 3 percent of assessable real property, and from 15 to 9 percent of assessable personal property.

Local Charter Amendment C: County Council Special Elections

This Charter Amendment amends the Frederick County Charter to provide that the County Council shall fill a vacancy on the Council by choosing one of three persons from a list submitted by the central committee of the same political party as the vacating member. If no list is submitted or the vacating member was not a member of a political party, the Council shall appoint a person it deems best qualified to hold office. If the Council fails to fill the vacancy within 45 days, the County Executive shall fill the vacancy by following the same procedure. All persons considered for appointment shall be presented to the public and shall be interviewed by either the Council or Executive, allowing for public comment, prior to appointment. If the vacancy occurs in the first year of the vacating member’s term, after a person is appointed to temporarily fill the vacancy, a special election will be held to elect and fill the vacancy for the balance of the term.

Local Charter Amendment D: County Executive Special Elections

This Charter Amendment amends the Frederick County Charter to provide a process to fill a vacancy in the position of County Executive. The County Council shall fill a vacancy of the Executive by choosing one of three persons from a list submitted by the central committee of the same political party as the vacating Executive. If no list is submitted or the vacating Executive was not a member of a political party, the Council shall appoint a person it deems best qualified to hold office.  If the Council fails to fill the vacancy within 45 days, the Council shall appoint the County’s Chief Administrative Officer. All persons considered for appointment shall be presented to the public and shall be interviewed, allowing for public comment, prior to appointment. If the vacancy occurs in the first year of the vacating Executive’s term, after a person is appointed to temporarily fill the vacancy, a special election will be held to elect and fill the vacancy for the balance of the term.

It’s the holiday season, but before you rush off to a holiday party with friends and family, remember COVID is still around.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has put out some recommendations for how you can enjoy the holidays safely.

Consider celebrating virtually or only with members of your own household. This is the lowest-risk way to have a celebration. The more people from outside your household you include, the greater your risk of picking up the virus.

Before accepting an invitation to go to a party, consider how prevalent the virus is in that community. The greater the cases, the greater the chance of the virus finding its way into your party. If you are hosting the party, consider the number of cases where the people you invite to the party live. Also, the longer the party lasts, the greater the risk of contracting the virus.

If you aren’t practicing social distancing, wearing masks, washing your hands, or practicing other preventative behaviors, the risk of infection at the party will increase. The more these things can be done even during the party, the lower the risk will be.

Who Should Not Attend In-person Celebrations

People at increased risk for severe illness.

People with or exposed to COVID-19.

People who are waiting for COVID-19 viral test results.

Travel Considerations

Wear a mask in public settings.

Practice social distancing.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60 percent alcohol).

Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Get your flu vaccine.

After the Party

If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, or if you test positive for COVID-19, immediately contact the host and others who attended the celebration that you attended. They may need to inform other attendees about their possible exposure to the virus. Contact your health care provider and follow the CDC-recommended steps for what to do if you become sick and follow the public health recommendations for community-related exposure.


Mayor Don Briggs

In the face of a larger second wave of COVID-19 cases, and with new restrictions, there was an individual “community” 5K walk-run Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day morning. It was not done in person. Thank you, Commissioners Burns and O’Donnell.

As of this writing, the 32nd Annual Christmas Tree Lighting and Evening of Christmas Spirit will occur as planned. The Christmas Tree Lighting will be held on Monday, December 7, at 6:00 p.m. in front of the Community Center. The tree lighting will be followed by hayrides, seasonal inspiring music and song, and free hot chocolate and hot dogs at the Carriage House Inn. Please check our town website and our Facebook page for further details and updates on both events. Masks required.

We are asking you to do your best to conserve water. The town is in Phase 2 of its water conservation mandate that includes not washing cars or boats, etc. We have been blessed with some rainfall but are still below our optimum water supply levels at Rainbow Lake and town wells as established in 2011.

November 11 at 11:00 a.m., Commissioner Davis and I joined the American Legion VFW Honor Guard at several local sites in town for the annual observance to celebrate the end of WWII, Veterans of all wars, and those who gave their lives for our country. It is always a very moving and special experience. 

Rutter’s Convenience Store is now working on its last hurdle: a Maryland State Highway approval of entrance onto Route 140. The reality is close that construction will start at the first of the year. 

Ryan Homes’ model is complete, with final landscaping underway. Ryan Homes marketing is extraordinary. Homes for Emmitsburg will be marketed in all their projects in the area, as well as on-site.   

The town office is still closed to the public. The county-owned community center building continues to be closed to the public except for the Head Start program, which has a separate entrance to the building. 

Please get out and enjoy our wonderful parks and connected sidewalk system. Safe outdoor exercise is a strong ally of social distancing and wearing a face mask.

Libby and I wish each of you and your families the very best for the holidays.


Mayor John Kinnaird

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! Karen and I spent the day at home, and we enjoyed a nice, quiet day together. I want to give a big shoutout to our streets, electric, and park crews for doing a fantastic job with our Christmas lighting and Christmas tree. If you haven’t had the opportunity to drive by or stop at Mechanicstown Square Park to admire the decorations, I invite you to do so. I also invite you to take a drive through the Community Park to see the decorations along the roadway. The Thurmont Lions Club has their Remembrance Tree set up at the corner of South Center Street and East Main Street. Be sure to stop and have a look at that tree as well. Seeing the decorations on the tree always brings back memories of those I knew. Christmas in Thurmont is a little different this year. We are not having the program downtown as we normally would. Santa will be available for virtual visits on Saturday, December 5; call 301-271-7313 to make a reservation. There will be prize drawings for kids, and the adults can once again participate in the map contest. Check the Thurmont Main Street Facebook page for all the details at 

The extremely popular Frederick County Society of Model Engineers (FCSME) Christmas Train Display will be set up in unit C2 at the Thurmont Plaza Shopping Center on North Church Street. The train display is always a lot of fun for kids of all ages! The display will be open Wednesday evenings, from 5:00-9:00 p.m.; Saturdays, from 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., during the month of December. The display is free of charge, but donations to the FCSME are welcome. Everyone must wear a mask while in the train display; if you are not wearing a mask, you will be asked to leave.

Sadly, COVID-19 infections are once again on the rise. The Governor’s Orders require the wearing of face masks in all public locations, and we are encouraged to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others whenever possible. Wearing a mask may be a small inconvenience, but it helps protect you, your family members, your friends, and everyone else.

Christmas is almost here, and we will be visiting family and friends. A thoughtful and easy Christmas gift for all your family and friends is to wear your face mask! If you need a face mask, please call me. I have plenty of handmade face masks, made and donated by local residents. At this time, we should also think about our less fortunate neighbors and friends. A donation to the Thurmont Food Bank can help bring a more cheerful Christmas to many needy families.

One of my favorite things to do on Christmas Day is to watch A Christmas Carol; I especially like the 1938 version with Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge. Each of us knows an Ebenezer Scrooge, and we may have acted like him at some time. After all, we are only human and can sometimes let our thoughts make us blind to the needs of others or ourselves. I think the closing lines of A Christmas Carol are the best part of Charles Dickens wonderful story, “He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”

I can be reached at 303-606-9458 or by email at with any questions or concerns.

Karen and I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Emmitsburg November 2020

For more information on the Town of Emmitsburg, visit or call 301-600-6300.

Tree Lighting Ceremony on Dec. 7

The Town of Emmitsburg will hold its annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony on December 7 at 6:00 p.m. at the Community Center. Come enjoy music and carolers as Emmitsburg kicks off the Christmas season.

Addressing Traffic at the Square

The Maryland State Highway Administration made a presentation to the Emmitsburg Commissioners about possible ways to alleviate the traffic at the town square. The first solution looked at was alternating traffic on Main Street like it alternates at the light with Seton Avenue traffic. However, traffic on this road is much lighter than it is on Main Street. Trying to alternate Main Street traffic through the light would actually increase congestion at the square.

Sam DeLaurence with SHA said traffic “would look more like ski season.”

The state’s suggestion was to create turning lanes on Main Street. They would not hold up traffic and would actually improve safety at the intersection. The changes would not require construction, only some restriping of the road. The drawback is that seven existing parking spaces near the square would be lost, where the driving lanes would be increased.

DeLaurence said that as traffic increases with Emmitsburg’s growth, “At some point, we’re going to need to do something like this.”

The commissioners are now considering whether they will go forward with the recommendation or not.

Concern About Disk Golf

The new Emmitsburg disk golf course in Community Park has only been open a short time, but potential problems with the placement of some of the disk cages has been raised. At a recent town meeting, the commissioners discussed whether the flight path of the disks could potentially hit walkers on the paved path around the park. The town is going to take another look at the course. If changes need to be made, the town can make them quickly.

Water System Study

The Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners took steps toward building a new water plant in town and improving the town’s water capacity during its November meeting. The commissioners unanimously approved a bid of $25,000 from McCrone Engineering in Annapolis to conduct the preliminary engineering report and environmental report on the town’s water system. Although McCrone was not the cheapest bid, their bid included items that the cheapest bid did not, and the company has experience working with the town, Maryland Department of the Environment, and United States Department of Agriculture.

New Pump Station Financing

Although the United States Department of Agriculture is financing the Town of Emmitsburg’s new $2 million pumping station on Creamery Road, it won’t pay for the project until it is further along in the process. The town commissioners approved using CoBank to provide bridge funding for the project until the USDA begins paying for the project.

The commissioners also approved annexing two parcels on Creamery Road, making up 85.39 acres, for the wastewater treatment plant.

Salary Compensation

The Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners decided to start adjusting the pay scale for town employees based on the recent salary compensation analysis conducted in town. Since some of the adjustments are large, they will be made incrementally: 50 percent of the adjustment will be made on January 1, 2021, and 50 percent will be made on July 1, 2021. Town staff will also be looking for ways to fund the adjustment through unfilled positions and unused money in the budget.

Thurmont November 2020

For more information on the Town of Thurmont, visit or call 301-271-7313.

Toys for Tots Dropoff at Thurmont Town Office

Thurmont Scout Troop 270 is collecting Toys for Tots for Christmas 2020. The dropbox is located in the lobby of the Thurmont Town Office. Toys can be dropped off Mondays through Fridays, 8:00 a.m.-4 p.m., until December 7. 

Town Hiring Lobbyist to Get Solar Credit Help

The Town of Thurmont is teaming with other Maryland towns that have their own power companies to hire a lobbyist to push the town’s hopes of getting the same caps on their solar renewable energy credit costs as cooperatives in the state. Thurmont will share in the lobbyist costs up to $20,000 with Easton, Berlin, Williamsport, and Hagerstown. As the state’s requirements that more of its power come from renewable energy sources, the costs have skyrocketed, which could wind up costing Thurmont $250,000 to $320,000 more a year if something isn’t done.

Thurmont Police Department Teams Up with 7-Eleven for Operation Chill

The Thurmont Police Department is partnering with 7-Eleven and Slurpee for Operation Chill. The Operation Chill Program allows local law enforcement officers to reward children with free Slurpee coupons for observing safety rules, participating in positive activities, or performing good deeds or acts of kindness.

Town Amends Purchasing Ordinance

The Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners adjusted its purchasing ordinance so that it reflects the procedures that town staff have found work well. The major change is that the town is no longer required to advertise in newspapers for vehicle and mobile equipment purchases. The ordinance change needed to be made to comply with an exception found in last year’s town audit.

deb abraham spalding

While America, the world, and our local community was learning how to social distance and quarantine last spring as the Coronavirus Pandemic changed our way of living, Sherry and Rob Myers and staff members at the Thurmont Kountry Kitchen Restaurant stepped up to provide meals for kids in Northern Frederick County. For several months, the Kountry Kitchen team served between 125 and 170 bagged meals per day. This endeavor allowed those impacted by these times to stop by the restaurant in Thurmont or the Vigilant Hose Company Fire House in Emmitsburg to pick up a bagged lunch for free.

Sherry said, “We know that a lot of the kids rely on meals they get in school and could go hungry without them. My employees didn’t care about the risk of COVID-19 to themselves, we just wanted to do something to help out the community.”

This project would take money and resources that Sherry didn’t know if she had the ability to provide on her own, since her life and business was impacted by the pandemic as well. She “just knew we had to do it.” Soon, both food and monetary donations emerged as the community supported the mission.

Sherry beamed, “You don’t really know how loyal your customers are until something happens like COVID. They really stepped up! It’s inspiring.”

Putting her hands out in expression, she added, “It made a world of difference for many families. The kids really appreciated the kind gesture. They made Muppets from their lunch bags and gave them to us as a sign of their appreciation.”

“It just proves that if you set the example, others will follow.”

It is through this selfless commitment to a mission of service that Sherry; Rob; their children Bobby, Nick, and Jayden; and the Kountry Kitchen employees have maintained an impactful community business for the past 36 years. Sherry explained, “The Kountry Kitchen started in 1984 when Dad brought life to my Mom’s dream of owning her own restaurant.”

Sherry’s mom and dad are the late Pat and Roger Ridenour. These two iconic locals were fixtures at their business. Prior to opening, Pat worked at Gentleman Jim’s (now Carriage House Inn) in Emmitsburg as a line cook, and Roger was a shoemaker at the Freeman Shoe Company in Emmitsburg.

In the beginning, Pat, her mother Olive Misner, and a waitress dug in tirelessly to run the new business. Pat and Roger’s children, Sherry, Tracy (Boyd), and Andrea (Shafer) helped in various ways. New staff members were added as the business grew. Shortly after, Roger resigned from his full-time job to concentrate on the growing venture. Sherry reminisced, “Mom and I trained him [Dad/Roger] to be a grill cook. He was one of the best we ever had.”

While working the grill behind the counter, Roger became a friend to many, carrying on conversations that would last a lifetime. Sherry recalls that her dad “served as lawyer, doctor, psychiatrist, and friend.” In the beginning, the restaurant was open 24 hours on weekends to accommodate a robust party crowd that would meet up after a night out in Thurmont at Skippers, Blue Mountain Inn, Texas Lunch, or Tommy’s Tavern. There was a counter in the main room with bar stools, a video game, a juke box; it was heated with a woodstove that was positioned prominently in the middle of the room. Sherry exclaimed, “We had so much fun!”

Pat was always a socialite. She would sit at the table with her customers and talk. She loved carrying on with the kids, often greeting them with a hug. Pat’s dream had become reality! Pat emanated happiness and was greatly satisfied to host her Kountry Kitchen family.

In addition to being the business owner and the socialite, Pat was a life-long culinary student. Sherry and Tracy estimate that Pat collected as many as 15,000 cookbooks. In Pat and Roger’s home, Roger had renovated a bank vault by installing bookshelves to accommodate Pat’s culinary library.

Kountry Kitchen diners often have a standard favorite order ranging from specialty sandwiches to salad, but it’s important to note that the menu is very extensive. At one point, Pat presented the menu in one-inch binders, complete with the latest of her newsletters and a copy of an article about the restaurant’s most recent Broasted® Chicken award!

Over the years, unique menu items have come and gone at Kountry Kitchen, “We’ve named things like ‘Joshua the Constipator’ because Joshua [a former cook] put every kind of cheese we had on it. Another is ‘Big John’s Whaler,’” Sherry grinned, “That was interesting!”

Sherry explains that a top seller is Hog Maw. The community looks forward to it as a special, and it sells out fast. Slippery Pot Pie sells fast, too. Puddin’ and scrapple are standard on the menu.

Recently, the Kountry Kitchen was designated to serve the Best Broasted® Chicken in the State of Maryland by MSN News. Back in 2004, Pat purchased what soon became her prized possession, her Broaster! It became one of the best purchases they ever made, as Broasted Chicken continues to be a best-seller at the restaurant. The Broaster produces great chicken that is “plump, succulent, and good to the bone.” Sherry said their chicken sales since COVID-19 are unbelievable. They actually had to purchase a second Broaster to keep up with the amount of orders. She explained, “Our chicken is fresh; it’s not put in hold ever! It takes about 20-25 minutes. It’s well worth the wait.”

It’s a fact that while Kountry Kitchen’s mission of community service is important, it has repeatedly proven that the food and flavor keep the customers coming back.

Pat and Roger made changes to the restaurant to make way for new regulations and business growth. First, the old woodstove was removed from the dining area, ending a long-standing early morning tradition of getting the woodstove going and setting up for Roger by Bob ‘Bear’ Sharrer, Daddy Ridenour, and Cutter Eyler. “They were here every day! They were so loyal,” Sherry shared.

Next, the video game and juke box were removed to create more seating. Then, an addition was added in 1999 that ended an era. Roger and his grill were relocated from the main dining area to the new kitchen in the addition. With this change, Pat could still be seen making her social rounds in the dining room, but it took more effort to see and talk with Roger.

In 2000, a final addition was made. A second dining room, dubbed the Rideau Room, was added on the back of the building. The Rideau Room was named after the Rideau Inn in Ocean City, Maryland, where Pat and Roger stayed on their honeymoon.

Roger passed quietly in his sleep in 2014. This was a turning point for the business, as Sherry and Rob had already stepped in more to help run it. Pat started having conversations about Sherry and Rob buying the business. This took place as Pat became increasingly saddened by the loss of Roger. Pat became ill in May of 2019, and after a long battle at The University Of Maryland, she passed in July of 2019. “Knowing that mom and dad worked so hard to build my mom’s dream is very gratifying. Mom always liked seeing the repeat generations of customers. Adults who were once customers as kids would bring their kids to share the experience that they once had as a child.”

Now, with Sherry and Rob owning and operating the business, they are supported by their family and many committed and talented staff members who serve an amazing array of grateful customers. About her customers, Sherry said they have become friends. For instance, “Dottie Ramsburg sat next to me on a stool at the counter 36 years ago when I was a young kid. We started up a conversation, and now we’re best friends,” Sherry explained. The original bar stool Dottie sat on at the L-shaped counter was given to Dottie as a gift. Sherry added, “When she comes in now, she’ll joke that someone’s sitting at her table. Miss Dot will always hold a special place in my heart. She’s more than a customer; she’s become family and a great friend.”

Sherry recalled that when her daughter, Jayden, was really sick, they were in financial despair. They connected with the Patty Polatos Fund, and Debbie Williams, the administrator of that charity, encouraged Sherry to let them help. Sherry said, “The community came out for us. We raised over $6,000 from a bake sale that helped pay Jayden’s medical bills. The community still supports us, and we’ll be there for them for many years to come. Like grandma said, “You reap what you sew!”

This memory inspired another. Sherry reminisced, “One day Debbie [Williams] came in after church and asked for breakfast an hour after we stopped serving breakfast. Sherry, knowing that Debbie had a phenomenal voice, said, ‘Tell her if she’ll sing Amazing Grace, I’ll cook her breakfast.’ Sure enough, Debbie stood right in the kitchen and sang to me. It brought tears to my eyes!”

Today, with tighter restrictions due to COVID-19, take-out is outselling dine-in. Sherry admits that things have been challenging through the pandemic, trying to keep everyone safe and following all the guidelines. Now, the problem is, “We’re lacking help.” Our loyal employees have really stepped up and have been working hard to fill in the gaps.

Sherry and Rob rewarded their employees who worked from day one during COVID, without missing a day, with what she calls, a “COVID Bonus.” She said, “That was a power booster for us,” and explained, “Last month, we had the highest sales month we’ve ever had over 36 years in business, even with Colorfest being canceled. We are extremely grateful!”

Sherry is filled with hope, commitment, and drive. “I’d like to thank each and every one of you who have stuck with us. It must be commended that our employees have stepped up in every way they can. It hasn’t always been easy, and they’ve stuck with us through the good and bad times. Thanks for your dedication and continued support. We would like to thank our customers for being our friends, family, and our favorite people. You are the heart of our business. Your loyalty and continued patronage over the years is greatly appreciated. Without you, there would be no us!”

The Kountry Kitchen is located at 17 Water Street in Thurmont. The dining room is open with limited seating at 50 percent. Call for take-out at 301-271-4071. If the line is busy or rings and rings, keep trying.

Congratulations to the Kountry Kitchen Family for all of your successes, your service, and your unwavering commitment to our community. Happy Wedding Anniversary to Sherry and Rob for 30 years in November!

Courtesy Photos

Owners Rob and Sherry Myers are shown in the kitchen at Thurmont Kountry Kitchen.

Sherry Myers (right) is shown with her parents, Pat and Roger Ridenour, in the kitchen at Thurmont Kountry Kitchen.

Pictured left are Brian Toms, Joey Miller, Marsala McKissick, Betty Mowdy, and Dottie Ramsburg.

The other photos show the exterior and interior of Kountry Kitchen in the earlier days, with the old woodstove, juke box, and video game.

Blair Garrett

“Being in the kitchen, it’s like a passion. If you don’t have it, you better get out.”

Tony Testa of Rocky’s Pizza in Thurmont knows a thing or two about culinary creativity, the people of Thurmont, and steadfast dedication.

For the past 30 years, owners Tony and Tina Testa have brought smiles and delicious classic Italian dishes to Thurmont. Yet, their long-standing business wasn’t built overnight. It’s been a lifetime of cultivating skill, technique, and learning the trade of becoming a pillar in the community. 

Born and raised in Naples, Italy, Tony moved to the United States when he was 24 years old. The lessons he took from his background have tremendously contributed to his decorated career in the business.

“I had my first job when I was 12 years old as a dishwasher in a restaurant,” Testa said. Back in the day, Coca-Cola came in wooden crates, and I had to flip those upside down and stand on them to reach into the sink. If I would have fallen in, I probably would have drowned.”

Testa didn’t spend his whole career washing dishes, though, and in just a few short years, he found himself on to bigger and better things. “I moved on to hotels and then culinary school in Italy and worked as a server and on cruise lines.”

To truly learn the restaurant industry, one must be knowledgeable and proficient at each job in order to keep the restaurant on track. Testa learned the ins and outs of his industry through decades of experience, but he has taken lessons from many sources and opportunities throughout his life, which have shaped how he has grown his business and himself.

“I’ve worked with great, great people since I was a kid,” Testa said. “I was 15 or 16 years old when a guy quit, and they moved me from the dishroom to being a chef. I was lucky the guy really liked me, and he taught me a lot of things. And, here, over 40 years later, my brain still goes back to that.”

Rocky’s popular dishes are a product of years of learning piece-by-piece how to operate yourself in a kitchen, along with a dash of creativity from the head chef. “You have to put your touch into things,” Testa said.

One thing Testa heavily emphasizes is the commitment to never stop learning. That lesson was instilled in him from a young age and has been a huge motivational chip for him in the kitchen.

At the age of 17, Testa found a mentor at his culinary school who made a lasting impact, which he fondly remembers to this day. “He was originally from Saudi Arabia. He knew seven languages,” Testa recalled, as he raised his hand to his face, reminiscing.

“I’ll never forget this, but this one time for his birthday, we bought him a gift and went to visit him at his house, where he brought us in this studio. It looked like a lawyer’s office, with his big desk and nothing but books all around the walls. It was all culinary books, and he told us that he got new ones in every day.”

Testa glanced around as if he was still in that room, peering at every wall. “We asked, ‘Why, Chef? Once you’re out of culinary school, you’re a chef. You’re done,’” Testa said. “He told us no, and that every day there is something new that comes out that he needed to learn about. What he did not know yesterday, he needed to know by tomorrow, and I’ll never forget that.”

These days, it can be challenging to read emotion and facial expressions through masks. Still, Testa was visibly beaming, recollecting the memories that guided him to where he is today. “Life is a learning experience from day one, all the way to the end. It never stops, and it never ends, my friend.”

Testa is also a firm believer that the good you put out eventually comes back to you in some form. Testa has spent lots of time giving back to the community, whether it’s working with Thurmont Little League or just being a friendly face accompanied by a hot meal.

“We help out in the community, and all of that stuff has paid back through my business throughout the years,” he said. “People support us, and we support them.”

That kind of community connection has established Rocky’s Pizza as a staple of Thurmont and the surrounding area, and it’s a huge reason why he and his family have stayed here for 36 years.

While he was already a well-rounded chef, Testa gained a key skill that has led his business when he came to America. “I did not know how to make pizzas until I moved over here,” he said. Just like before, Testa worked his way up until he branched out and opened his own Rocky’s Pizza in Thurmont in 1990. The Testas moved the location in 1996 to Tippin Drive, where they’ve found their home and have been working ever since. “When I came over here, I had to learn a new trade, and three or four million pizzas later, here we are,” he said.

It’s no mystery why the Testa’s have been a go-to spot for a hot meal in Thurmont for so long. Throughout his life, Testa has improved his recipes and techniques by taking a look over his shoulder and learning from other excellent chefs. But it’s that commitment to keep learning and growing that has had locals raving about his recipes for decades.

There’s nothing quite like breaking bread with people you care about and a perfectly crafted meal right in front of you. That’s something the Testas plan on continuing to provide Thurmont for years to come.

Photo by Blair Garrett

Owners Tony and Tina Testa are shown in their popular restaurant in Thurmont, Rocky’s NY Pizza & Italian Restaurant, celebrating 30 years in business.

On Veterans Day 2020, Grace Eyler with The Catoctin Banner had the honor of joining the Hoke Family in the Church of Incarnation in Emmitsburg to honor our Veterans. Becky Hoke diligently rang the church’s bell for over three minutes while family helped by keeping a timer and prompting her pulls on the bell rope. The bell is rung annually at five minutes before 11:00 a.m. in honor of the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I at 11:00 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

Becky’s father, Tom Hoke, recalled being 13 years old when his father had taken over as the ringer. Since then, the Hoke family has performed this tradition at this church for over one hundred years (except while Tom was in service in WWII, then Fred Wolf did it). Tom celebrated his 97th birthday in November!

Photo by Grace Eyler

Mr. Billy Hodge, Sr., former coach and teacher at Thurmont Middle and Catoctin High Schools, was honored at the Cascade American Legion on November 7, 2020, not only as an impactful teacher and coach, but also as a Korean War Veteran. The gathering focused on celebrating Mr. Hodge’s 90th birthday (November 8) and was also part of the Cascade American Legion’s Veteran Showcase, organized by member, Joan Fry.

His late wife, Helen, who taught fourth grade at Sabillasville Elementary School for many years, was honored as well.

Prior to the gathering, Facebook and The Catoctin Banner were used to communicate the occasion. On Facebook, Mr. Hodge was touted by Kim Miller Cromwell as a “Great teacher!”; by Helen Horton-Rice as, “A wonderful man.”; and by Evan Atkinson as, “A great teacher who was always very fair, honest, and very easy to respect.”

Visitors to the gathering brought birthday cards and gifts for Mr. Hodge and shared yearbooks and class photos for all to see. Several of Mr. Hodge’s peers attended, including former coach, teacher, and athletic director, Paul Nolan, and FCPS bus drivers Frank and Shirley Riffle, who traditionally drove CHS sports teams to away competitions.

Mr. Hodge is remembered fondly for teaching in a way that taught respect in a supportive way. He is notorious for asking pointedly blunt questions and assigning nicknames. The most widely-remembered is the assignment of “Bonehead” to a student when he or she was acting in an illogical way. Several of his children and grandchildren in attendance confirmed that he still uses that specific term of endearment. At the gathering, Mr. Hodge explained, “It just makes sense. I was teaching biology and science. The human skull is made of bone. We’re all boneheads.” Upon reflection, it seems that most of his students ended up using their boneheads to make sense of the task at hand, and they appreciated it.

Some of Mr. Hodge’s former students were impacted significantly by him. Beverly Hicks Little said, “He was the first teacher to tell me about Mitosis vs. Meiosis. He intrigued me to learn and do more. I am now a nurse… [in Florida] can someone please let him know how much he impacted me in fifth grade science class!”

Susan Clem Crone, former student and now educator at Thurmont Elementary said, “BONEHEAD! I still call people that!”

On Facebook, several children in the Lucey Family in Creagerstown chimed in. Kathaleen Lucey said, “I’ll reach out and send a card on behalf of my family…I hope he didn’t have to teach all seven of us. LOL.” Her sister Clare chimed in that she had him, and Kathaleen added, “He had six [of the seven Lucey children], I know that. I think of him whenever I call my kids dummy nuts.”

Cory Martin said, “I remember him calling me “Bonehead “ a few times. Lol,” and Jean Rippeon added, “He was one of my favorite teachers in the middle school. He used to call me ‘Elmer.’” I asked him, “Why do you call me Elmer?” He replied, “Because you are always coming to me saying I’m stuck!”

Happy Birthday, Mr. Hodge! Thank you for your service!

Thanks to all who attended this event. Stay tuned for upcoming events to honor our local Veterans at Cascade American Legion.

Courtesy Photos

Pictured from left, former CHS coach, teacher, and athletic director, Paul Nolan, looks at yearbooks with Mr. Billy Hodge, former Thurmont Elementary and Thurmont Middle School teacher and CHS coach, while Shirley and Frank Riffle, retired FCPS school bus drivers, look on.

Mr. Hodge’s 6th Grade Class, Thurmont Elementary School, 1973.

Vickie Grinder

In November, the Town of Thurmont presented Patty Hurwitz from the Hurwitz Breast Cancer Fund at Frederick Health a check for $15,300 from the 7th Annual Gateway To The Cure Campaign!

The Gateway To The Cure included a 5K, Golf Tournament, purchasing pinwheels for our Garden of Love, a Pink Pumpkin contest, selling Gateway To The Cure merchandise, receiving private donations from residents, and selling pink light bulbs.

Last but not least, comes the backbone of our Gateway To The Cure Campaign: Our businesses! In a year of such uncertainty, with business shutdowns and many still operating in very limited capacities, these businesses are a guiding light and show the power, strength, and innovation of small businesses.

Our donation was, to say the least, phenomenal in a year where many of our funding avenues were prohibited due to restrictions that generated several thousand dollars last year.

Every single person who made some type of support along our Gateway To The Cure journey, “Thank You!” Your contribution was not just a donation but directly affects the lives of those undergoing treatment for breast cancer for the hope of a better tomorrow with the state-of-the-art treatment, care, and support at Frederick Health via the Hurwitz Breast Cancer Fund.

Thanks to you, the Town of Thurmont has donated a little over $98,000 in seven years to the Hurwitz Breast Cancer Fund at Frederick Health.

For more information on the Hurwitz Breast Cancer Fund, visit

On behalf of the Town of Thurmont and Patty Hurwitz, our heart-filled thanks go out to each and every one of you for your contribution!

 The month of October Gateway To The Cure Campaign business supporters: Amber Hill Physical Therapy; Bakers Tree Service; Bollingers Restaurant; Catoctin Veterinary Clinic; Catoctin Breeze Vineyard; Cousins Ace Hardware; Gateway Candyland; Gateway Liquors; Gateway Orthodontics; Hawkins Landscaping; Hobbs Hardware; Images Of You Hair Studio; J&B Real Estate; Kelco Plumbing & Backhoe Services; Legacy Financial; Mountain Gate Family Restaurant; Pondscapes; Rebecca LaChance Artistic Portraits; Rocky’s NY Pizza & Italian Restaurant; Roy Rogers; Scentsy–Traci Solich Independent Consultant; Seven Dragonflies Studio; Town & Country Liquors; Thurmont Bar & Grill; Thurmont Child Care; Thurmont Kountry Kitchen; Thurmont Lions Club; Timeless Trends Boutique; Tracie’s House Of Hair; Wait, What? Sauce Company; Woodsboro Bank. Gateway To the Cure 2nd Annual Golf Classic Donors: Pink Ball Top Tier Sponsors—Colonial Jewelers, Emmitsburg News Journal, J&B Real Estate, Kelco Plumbing, Stauffer Funeral Home, Thurmont Ambulance Company, Woodsboro Bank, Mountain View Lawn Service, Jubilee Foods in Emmitsburg; Hole Sponsors—Affordable Storage; Baker Tree Services; Dick & Elizabeth Lee; G&S Electric; Guardian Hose Company; Lewistown Ruritan; Mikes Auto Body; Pondscapes; Rebecca Pearl Gallery; R.S. Kinnaird Memorials; Shank & Associates; Smoketown Brewery Station; The Farmhouse Exchange; Thurmont American Legion Post 168; Thurmont AMVETS Post #7; Thurmont Kountry Kitchen; Town of Thurmont; Wait, What? Sauce Company; Prize drawing donations—Beaver Creek Country Club; South Mountain Golf Course; Wegman’s; Costco; ThorpeWood; Yemi; McClintock Distilling; Top Golf; Mindful Focus Photography; Wait, What? Sauce; Nicole Lutrell; Warehouse Cinemas; Rebecca Pearl Gallery; Weis Markets.

Pictured from left are Thurmont Commissioners Wayne Hooper and Bill Buehrer, Mayor John Kinnaird, Thurmont Commissioners Marty Burns and Wes Hamrick, and Patty Hurwitz.

James Rada Jr.

It’s 1818, and a shipment of straw bonnets has just arrived at Sis. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s free school in Emmitsburg. The young girls sit in their school room decorating their bonnets with ribbon as they talk about their lives, whether she is a daughter of a farming family in town or the granddaughter of one of the wealthiest men in the country.

The 1818 Experience at the Seton Shrine in Emmitsburg is a living history experience at the Stone Farmhouse and White House on the grounds.

At the 1750 farmhouse, you meet living history interpreters, portraying Sisters Sally Thompson and Bridgette Farrow, who take you on a tour of the first permanent home in Emmitsburg for Seton and her sisters. They show you where the small home was added onto and the room where Seton slept and the first small chapel for the sisters.

It was also in this house that Seton founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s on July 31, 1809.

At the White House, a class of young girls is comprised of girls from town families and those who are boarding at the school. This is the building where the first free Catholic school for girls was founded, and it eventually grew into St. Joseph’s College.

An interpreter portraying Sis. Elizabeth explained that many of the boarders came from cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore because Mother Seton had “connections” in those cities.

“They knew their daughters could get a good education here and good skills needed to start a household,” Sis. Elizabeth said.

The 1818 Experience also allows you to watch the girls have fun with outdoor activities and take French lessons.

“Everything we can control, we try to keep period,” said Claire Bodine, group visits coordinator at the Seton Shrine.

The program makes uses of the junior history interpreters, a relatively new program at the shrine that trains youth in living history.

“They take workshops and classes to learn why what they do is important,” explained Bodine. “They also do instructional shadowing with experienced interpreters to learn how it is done.”

Bernadette Hahn, age 10, plays Catherine Walters, a student at the school. When her mom first signed her up for the program, all she knew was it had something to do with history. Now, after learning more about Walters and playing her during living history activities, Bernadette said, “I love it.”

Although the program chose a bad year because it had to deal with COVID-19 restrictions, it will be returning in the spring. The living history interpreters will be participating in the Candlelight Tours this month from December 11-19. These tours will take you into the homes on the grounds that are decorating for the holidays during the early 1800s. Visitors will learn about the Christmas traditions from Mother Seton’s time and can partake in hands-on activities.

Photos by James Rada, Jr.

Junior history interpreters get ready to play students at the White House at the Seton Shrine in Emmitsburg.

Living history interpreters play sisters Sally Thompson and Bridgette Farrow at the Stone House at the Seton Shrine in Emmitsburg.

Thurmont Lions Club’s Fabulous Fudge Fundraiser

Don’t miss out on some delicious fudge from Thurmont Lions Club’s Fabulous Fudge Fundraiser. Choose from vanilla, chocolate, maple, peppermint, eggnog, and peanut butter. Place your fudge order by December 12 for pickup on December 19. View the advertisement on page 2 for cost and order information.

An Evening of Christmas Music With Ruut DeMeo at ThorpeWood

ThorpeWood in Thurmont is pleased to announce its Evening of Christmas Music with Ruut DeMeo on Saturday, December 5, 2020, from 7:00-10:00 p.m. Seating is limited to 50 people in compliance with COVID-19 guidelines. View the advertisement on page 8 for information on how to get your tickets today!

Emmitsburg’s 32nd Annual An Evening of Christmas Spirit

An all-out-door event this year, the 32nd Annual An Evening of Christmas Spirit will be held December 7, 2020, from 6:00-8:00 p.m., beginning with the Emmitsburg Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Community Center, along with local choirs, Santa, and more, followed by complimentary hot dogs, cookies, and hot chocolate at the Carriage House Inn. Please bring canned goods for the Emmitsburg Lions Club Christmas Food Drive. View the advertisement on page 9 and 21 for more details.

Seton Family Store’s Letters to Santa

The Seton Center Family Store will deliver your letters to Santa! Kids, write your letter to Santa and have Mom or Dad return it to the Seton Family Store by December 14, and you’ll receive a personal response from the Jolly Ole’ Elf! View the advertisement on page 15 for more information.

Free Confidential HIV Testing at Seton Center

The Frederick County Health Department Community Health Services is giving free confidential HIV testing on Saturday, December 12, at the Seton Center Thrift Store in Emmitsburg, from 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. View the advertisement on page 23 for more details.

ThorpeWood’s Annual Holiday Open House

Bring the whole family out for Thurmont’s ThorpeWood’s Annual Holiday Open House on December 12 and December 19, 2020. Following state and county COVID-19 guidelines, only 75 guests will be allowed during 90-minute timeframes on both days (sign up for your spot today!): Noon-1:30 p.m.; 2:00-3:30 p.m.; 5:00-6:30 p.m.; 6:30-8:00 p.m. View the advertisement on page 2 for information on how to sign up.

Wolfe Agricultural Auctions at The Eyler Stables

Mark your calendars for the not-to-be-missed upcoming events at The Eyler Stables in Thurmont: a Mini Horse Sale & Christmas Special on December 5, with Santa arriving at noon; Wolfe Industrial Equipment Sale on December 12, starting at 9:00 a.m.; Christmas Open House on December 19, from 11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.; and a New Year’s Horse Sale on January 1. Also, drop off your letter to Santa any time, any day, along with a return address, for a special letter from Santa! View the advertisement on the back page for more information.

Thurmont’s Holiday Train Display

Thurmont’s Holiday Train Display will be up for everyone to enjoy Saturdays, December 5, 12, and 19, from 10:00 a.m.-4 p.m.; and Wednesdays, December 9, 16, and 23, from 5:00-9:00 p.m. Sponsored by The Frederick County Society of Model Engineers. Masks required. View the advertisement on page 10 for more information.

When there’s a shortage of good news, local Lewistown neighbors come together to do some good. Driving along Hessong Bridge Road, you may have noticed that the Lewistown Ruritan Club sign got a bit of a facelift. Erik Legg, of Meadowland Agricultural Farm, donated his time to make the sign stand out. Adding evergreen holly bushes, deer-resistant salvia, native Black-eyed Susans, and all-season liriope, he wanted to call attention to “this special group of people in the community.” He added, “We have a great town, and we should take pride in it.”

Founded in 1960, the Lewistown Ruritan Club aims to achieve fellowship, goodwill, and community service. Overseen by President Gregg Warner, the club proudly carries on its 60-year-old tradition of doing positive things in the community. Together, members work to improve areas of business and professionalism, patriotism and citizenship, environment, public service, and social development.  

Members survey the needs of the community and decide where they can best lend a hand. This year, the club had to adjust to the COVID-19 regulations, holding only four of the traditional six chicken BBQs, which started in May and went through October. The BBQ’s were well-attended by the community. With the funds raised, the club could financially assist with other local non-profit and community needs. From contributing to local food banks, supporting 4-H, awarding scholarships to local teens, and helping the elderly and infirm, the Lewistown Ruritans help make the community stronger, even in the face of tough times. 

“COVID-19 has shifted some things around,” Warner said. “We need to wait to see which events will actually take place before we can commit to helping fund them; however, we know there are plenty of opportunities to help.” While not an official club member [yet], Legg believes, in addition to local organizations, such as the Lewistown Ruritans, volunteerism is a great way to make the world a better place. “If we aren’t willing to help out on a very local level—in our own homes, our own towns, churches, schools, and so on—how can we expect to positively impact society?” It might have been a small thing to add perennials to a road sign, but maybe a little splash of color these days can go a long way.

If you are interested in getting involved to make a difference, consider joining the Lewistown Ruritan Club. Members meet monthly on the first Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the Lewistown United Methodist Church. To request your membership application or to learn more about the benefits of joining, contact Gregg Warner via email at

Courtesy Photo

Gregg Warner (left) and Erik Legg stand by the newly renovated Lewistown Ruritan Club sign on Hessong Bridge Road.

Congratulations to Bill Powell of Thurmont. Bill was inducted into the Angus Heritage Foundation on November 8, 2020, during the American Angus Association’s Awards Recognition Dinner, at the 137th Annual Meeting in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Angus Heritage Foundation recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to the advancement of the Angus breed and Association programs.

Photo by Karen Hiltbrand, American Angus Association Pictured from left are Chuck Grove, American Angus Association treasurer; Eva Hinrichsen, 2020 Miss American Angus, presenting; Don Trimmer, accepting for Bill; and Mark McCully, American Angus Association CEO, presenting

George Tuggle, Emmitsburg Council of Churches Secretary

When a town comes together for a celebration, it has to be something important. Most often, we celebrate a national or religious holiday. On October 4, 2020, Emmitsburg came together to celebrate its unity in loving all persons regardless of race. Sponsored by the Emmitsburg Council of Churches (ECC), the celebration featured guest speakers, Christian music, Bible readings, and fellowship.

The beautiful fall day accentuated the presence of persons coming together expressing their belief in God, who loves all humanity. Not just our family, our tribe, our race, but all families, tribes, and races.

Guest speakers, Pastor Ron Reaves and Rev. Joseph A. Donnella, spoke wise words about the equality that all alike enjoy through our loving Savior Jesus Christ. Such equality exists through the eternal love of our heavenly Father and the help of the Holy Spirit. There is no room for racism in the Kingdom of God.

Before and after the speakers’ messages, musical groups, CCC Praise Team and 4th Sunday, lifted up those gathered with Christian praises.

Attendees included Emmitsburg Mayor Don Briggs; Mount St. Mary’s University President Timothy E. Trainor; Rev. Bill Gohl, Bishop of the Delaware Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and Rev. Harry Arnone, Associate Pastor, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

The gathering was blessed by members of the ECC who participated and helped organize the Unity Celebration: Pastor Jon Greenstone, Elias Evangelical Lutheran Church; Pastor John Talcott, Christ’s Community Church; Phyllis Kelly, ECC vice president, Tom’s Creek United Methodist Church (UMC); Sr. Anne Marie Lamoureux, National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton; Bill Wivell, ECC president, Trinity UMC; Pastor Richard Baker, Trinity UMC.

The Unity Celebration emphasized how Christians of all denominations are one in their love of persons regardless of race, and how Emmitsburg is a welcoming community.

Courtesy Photo Submitted by Bill Wivell, Emmitsburg Council of Churches president, and Phyllis Kelly, Emmitsburg Council of Churches vice president

Musical group, 4th Sunday, entertains and lifts up those gathered at the 2020 Emmitsburg “Unity Celebration.”

The Thurmont Food Bank is grateful to the community, especially to the Town of Thurmont, for all the generosity and support of the Thurmont Food Bank.

Your help has been especially important this year due to the pandemic; loss of jobs, income, and housing; and because children are not receiving food at school. Each month, the food bank has given out 200-320 shopping carts full of much-needed food, including milk, eggs, meats, produce, bread, and canned and boxed goods. You have helped to feed people from Thurmont, Sabillasville, Cascade, Lewistown, Deerfield, Rocky Ridge, Mountaindale, Utica, Creagerstown, Graceham, Foxville, and the surrounding areas.

The Food Bank is a labor of love, sponsored by The Thurmont Ministerium’s member churches and supported by community groups, individuals, and the Town of Thurmont. 

If you know someone who needs food, please tell them to come to the Thurmont Food Bank, located at 10 Frederick Road, on Tuesdays (5:00-7:30 p.m.) and Fridays (4:00-6:00 p.m.). Please do not arrive more than half an hour before they are open, and enter using the driveway across from the Post Office.

Christmas hams or turkeys will be given out starting on December 8. The food bank will be closed on December 25 and January 1.

Please Join the Thurmont Lions Club on National Wreaths Across America Day on December 19, 2020.

The Thurmont Lions Club is coming together to remember the fallen, to honor those who serve and their families, and to teach the next generation about the value of freedom, by participating in National Wreaths Across America Day. The club is sponsoring and laying wreaths at the graves of over 400 Veterans. The club is asking the Thurmont community to come out and help, as many volunteers are needed for the endeavor. 

A memorial service will begin at noon at Weller United Methodist Church, followed immediately by the laying of the wreaths. The club is also accepting monetary donations to help with the costs of the wreaths.

Lion Susan Smith is coordinating volunteers and requests to attend to a certain grave. Please contact her at 240-405-8482

The Emmitsburg Food Bank’s hours are Monday through Wednesday, from  7:00-8:00 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, from 10:00-11:00 a.m. The food bank is located at 130 S. Seton Avenue in Emmitsburg.

They appreciate all donations and can use most anything currently. Individuals and organizations can donate monetarily. The address to mail a check of support to is: Emmitsburg Food Bank, P.O. Box 898, Emmitsburg, MD 21727-0898.

For more information on the Emmitsburg Food Bank, please contact Phyllis Kelly at 717-642-6963 or

George Tuggle, Emmitsburg Council of Churches Secretary

What a year! How many events have been canceled? How much fellowship postponed?

The Emmitsburg Council of Churches (ECC) regretfully cancels the 2020 Christmas Tour of Churches. The Tour would have placed tour participants and congregations at an unacceptable risk for COVID-19.  Our greatest priority is the well-being of each and every person. We consider each person a child of God, a sister or brother.

Even in the cancellation, we remember with fondness and warmth the 2019 Emmitsburg Christmas Tour of Churches.

December 29, 2019, dawned a rainy, gray day outside. Yet, at the appointed time, each church demonstrated the gracious hospitality so important to all who follow Jesus. The tour brought out a cheerful company of visitors to each church. Many were members from one of the participating congregations.  Each church visited displayed how they celebrate Christmas. Following the tour, Trinity United Methodist Church hosted a hearty soup, sandwich, and dessert meal that warmed up the “tourists.”

Carols, good cheer, and Christian love were all present in abundance during the 2019 Tour. The Emmitsburg Council of Churches thanks everyone who participated in the 2019 Christmas Tour of Churches and looks forward to the 2021 Tour.

May the Lord bless and keep everyone during these difficult times.


Emmitsburg held its annual Halloween Parade & Costume Contest on Saturday, October 31, 2020. Creative costumes were in abundance, as onlookers lined Main Street, snapping funny photos of friends and family participating in the parade. The costume contest held at Vigilant Hose Company was a big hit yet again, putting a smile on the face of every child in attendance. Cupcakes, cider, goodie bags, and costume awards were given out at the Vigilant Hose Company station.

Costume judging included five categories: Cutest; Most Patriotic, Scariest, Most Original, and Best Groups. Costume winners were: Cutest—Carson Unger (1st Place), Harleigh Humphreys (2nd Place), Faith Collins & Taylor Johnson (3rd Place); Scariest—Mason Shorb (1st Place), Hailie Eichelberger (2nd Place), Ryland Williams (3rd Place); Most Original—Cregger Family (1st Place), Robinson Family & Burns Family (2nd Place), Kerry & Teresa Shorb (3rd Place); Groups—White Family & Rumsey Family (1st Place), Waldwin Family (2nd Place), Fogle Family (3rd Place).

Inmates and cops come together to form a dynamic family costume.

The Wizard of Oz graced Emmitsburg to make a big splash at the costume contest.

Mason Shorb takes first place for scariest costume, scaring off the rest of the competition.

Carson Unger “mooo”ves into first place in the cutest costume contest.

These Alice in Wonderland costumes were a big hit with costume contest judges.

The Emmitsburg Halloween parade featured some out-of-this-world costumes!

Thank You For Your Support

The 7th Annual Catoctin High School Baseball Alumni Vinny Healy Memorial Golf Tournament was held at Carroll Valley Golf Course on Saturday, October 17, 2020, and was a sold-out event! Thanks to our 144 golfers, many sponsors, volunteers, and the Carroll Valley staff for helping with our safe, fun, and successful event!

We would like to thank our tournament sponsors: The Gereny Family, Lamberts Cable, LG Assurance, Miss Utility, Norris Auto Group, One Call Concepts Inc, Subsurface Technologies and Utiliquest. We would also like to thank the following sponsors and volunteers: ABC Brewing Company Gettysburg; Baltimore Ravens; Colt Builders; Dave and Janes Crab House; Farm House Exchange; Garfield UMC; John Valentee George Mason Mortgage LLC NMLS191708; Jubilee; Liberty Mountain Resort; Links of Gettysburg Golf Course; Maple Run Golf Course; Mountainview Golf Course; Ott House; Pryors Orchard; Quail Valley Golf Course; Steves Plumbing; Walkersville Railroad; Westminster National Golf Couse; the Seidel family/1st Lieutenant Rob Seidel Memorial; the Burd, Hare, Harley, Medairy, Schildwachter, Szabados, and Taffe Families.

All proceeds from the event will go to the Vinny Healy Memorial Christian Outreach Fund to be used to help many organizations and families in our community and beyond!

Save the date for next year’s event on October 16, 2021—same time, same place!

Take the pledge for Vinny: Do Not Drink & Drive!

Thanks to all for your support. May God bless you and your families.

~ Our Sincere Gratitude, from Vince, Dixie, all Vinny’s family and

        friends, and the Catoctin High School Baseball Alumni

April 19, 1943

September 17, 2019

Shirley Ann Dewees-Ridenour, 76, of Thurmont, passed away on Tuesday, September 17, 2019, at Frederick Memorial Hospital.

Born on April 19, 1943, in Thurmont, she was the daughter of the the late Ray Dewees and Hazel Hewitt.

She is survived by: daughter Tina Reeves and husband Keith; granddaughter Kim Reiten and husband Chris; son Edward Ridenour, Jr. and wife Mary, granddaughter Angela, grandsons Andrew, Benjamin, and Lucas; son Timothy Ridenour, granddaughters Brooke and Lexie; daughter Valerie Mort and Chris Etzler, grandson Steven Mort and granddaughter Megan Mort, great-grandson Asher, granddaughter Gracie; daughter Monica Keeney and husband Butch, grandson Justin Tobery and wife Shinead, granddaughter Ashley Trout and great-granddaughter Alyssa and great-grandson Canyon, grandson Johnnie, granddaughter Piper and grandson Dalton. Also survived by brother Bobby Dewees and wife Betty Ann, and brother Tommy and wife Linda.

“Sis” proudly earned her title of Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and took care of many people during her 20-plus years as a CNA. Sis enjoyed playing Bingo and spending time at the casinos. She loved her kids, grandkids, and great grandkids, especially young Gracie who filled her heart with so much love the last few years of her life.