Stories of What It’s Like Returning Home After 25 Years

by dave ammenheuser

Thanks, Thurmont.   

A year ago, as I was struggling to comprehend what had happened in my life, I chose to return to my childhood home. My father died in September 2020; my mother died in December 2020. I made the decision to sell my house in Nashville and to retire from my beloved profession, so I could return to Thurmont to settle my parents’ estates.

I was apprehensive.

It was a difficult decision. But the right one.

I hadn’t been home regularly in more than 30 years. Growing up here in the 1970s meant picking up subs at The Red Door, buying banana splits at The Market Basket, picking up groceries at Super Thrift, having special dinners at the Shamrock and Cozy restaurants, picking up a sweet breakfast at The Donut Shoppe, and getting gas at Myers’ Shell Station after stopping to pick up a baseball at The Western Auto Store.

Those establishments (and so many others) are no longer in our community. But the welcoming humanity of our community remains.

My year-long journey brought me back in connection with Norm Feldser, my scoutmaster and mentor as a teen; with Larry Freshman, my Little League coach, who may have unknowingly ignited my interest in sports journalism. From Art Harpold, Scott Michael and Barry Burch, to Stacey (Weller) Marlow, Lisa (Filler) Rice, and Glenna (Marshall) Unglesbee, and so many others, the decision to return home allowed me to re-open face-to-face communication that Facebook and other social media platforms can’t unlock.

Former classmate, Wes Hamrick, is now a town commissioner. We chatted briefly this summer while he was selling sandwiches to benefit the Lions Club.

My childhood best friend, Rick Wastler, still lives in town and still owns the same ’66 Chevelle he had when we were teens. We spoke several times over the past year, picking up a friendship that started when we were trading baseball cards and playing backyard football.

Jimmy Rickerd is one of dozens of my 1980 Catoctin High classmates who remained in town after graduation. Despite a few health setbacks, he is still doing what he loves: playing rock music.  Nobody is more loyal than his family, friends, and hometown.

Being back allowed me to meet Mayor John Kinnaird, who bought things from my parents’ estate, but also gave me the perfect suggested location for my parents’ Celebration of Life event. It gave me the opportunity to learn more about the Thurmont Historical Society, to which I made a donation in my parents’ memory.

It allowed me to introduce the area hiking trails—the same ones that I hiked as a youth—to my beloved wife who helped me through the traumatic year.

This completes my 12-month assignment with The Catoctin Banner. I’m grateful to publisher Deb Spalding for giving me this space over 2021. It’s given you a peek into what it’s like for someone to return home after more than three decades away. It’s given me a therapeutic outlet.

In 1978, as a junior at Catoctin High School, I wrote my first published article about the Catoctin Cougars basketball team for The Catoctin Enterprise. That submission helped spark a sports journalism career that took me across the globe, covering sports for many different publications, finishing my career as the sports editor of USA TODAY in 2020.

Thus, it’s only fitting that my journalism career go full-circle: starting and ending with my hometown newspaper.

Thanks, Thurmont, for welcoming me back home. And although I plan to live my retirement years in Bethany Beach, Delaware, Thurmont will also be my prideful home that I plan to visit regularly.

You can reach Dave Ammenheuser via email at (above)

David and Maura Ammenheuser and their parents on their wedding day in 1996. It’s the only photo of all six of them together. All four parents are now deceased.

Maura and Dave Ammenheuser at the Thurmont Community Park earlier this year.

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