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Bernard Wivell donate thousands to athletes

Ingrid Mezo

Photo Cassie Bowen/Special to The Gazette

Bernard "Bun" Wivell reads a baseball memorabilia book in his home near Rocky Ridge on Saturday. Wivell and his family have donated thousands of dollars in grants to young athletes in the north Frederick County area.

(8/11) Bernard "Bun" Wivell cannot recall how he got his nickname. Everyone simply has called him Bun since his childhood.

"If they're from Emmitsburg or Thurmont, they know me," Wivell said.

Wivell has lived in the area for almost all of his 72 years, not counting the two he served in the U.S. Army at Fort Rucker, Ala.

He grew up on a farm in Emmitsburg and had 19 siblings. At last count, during their annual Christmas family reunion at the Rocky Ridge Fire Hall, the Wivell family numbered between 350 and 400 members.

Wivell and his children have run the Wivell Memorial Fund since June 2001 to commemorate the deaths of his sons Michael and Douglas. Michael and Douglas were both athletes at Catoctin High School, and the Wivells organize a memorial walk at Thurmont Community Park every June to raise money for a fund that provides grants to young athletes.

"I know we've given out over $17,000," Wivell said.

Most recently, the Wivells donated $750 to the Thurmont Allstars Little League team, which is in Connecticut this week vying for a shot at the Little League World Series.

Michael Wivell was killed in a car accident in 1980, and Douglas Wivell drowned in 2000, just two days after Christmas. Douglas was in his second year as a school teacher when he died. It is still difficult for is Bun and his daughter, Carolyn, to talk about Michael and Douglas without crying.

"We miss them as if it were yesterday," Carolyn said.

The Wivells wanted to do something to commemorate their loved ones, and while Bun Wivell had originally planned to give a memorial donation to the high school, a friend suggested the family plan an annual walk, and helped them organize the first one.

"The reason that we really wanted to do it is that so many people were at [Doug's] funeral, they almost lined up to the square in Emmitsburg," Carolyn said.

"I'll never forget this one fellow at the funeral," Carolyn said. "Doug used to take fruit to work, and that man took a red apple and placed it in the casket."

For the Wivells, organizing the walk and distributing the money to young athletes in the area is a way of healing.

"And we hope that's what it is for other people, too," Carolyn said.

Many people who participate in the walk come from far away to participate, and the walk brings in from $2,300 to $5,000 a year, Bun Wivell said. About 150 to 250 walkers participate each year.

The Wivells donate everything they take in. "We got a federal ID, everything's legal," Bun joked.

The Wivells try to keep their donations to Catoctin High School and its feeder schools. The Wivells have made donations to almost every team in the area, and Bun goes to watch many of the games.

"I go to a lot of them," Bun said. "Some of them, I don't even know what it's about."

The Wivells have helped many teams pay for startup costs, trips to championships and equipment. With the Wivells' help, Catoctin High School was able to start a lacrosse team.

Sometimes, the school cannot cover the costs of team sports, Carolyn said, and that is where the Wivells come in.

"We want to see these kids have a good start," Carolyn said.

The young athletes have sent many letters of appreciation since the Wivells started giving out the grants.

"Short of a tear-jerker, getting the letters is the fun part," Bun said.

Bun himself remembers growing up on the farm in Emmitsburg with his 19 siblings.

"All those brothers and sisters -- I don't know how my parents ever stood it, because we could get in trouble," Bun joked. "But boy, my father kept us busy."

The Wivell children had lots of farm chores to do in the morning, such as milking cows, mucking out stalls and hand-picking crops.

"You did everything by hand those days," Bun said. "There were no air-conditioned tractors then, or even tractors."

Bun also walked two miles to school every morning, and never missed a day, he said, even when it snowed. He is a member of the Emmitsburg High School Class of 1952.

Wivell married in 1959, and moved to his home in Rocky Ridge in 1964.

He worked at Saylers Country Store selling farm equipment, feed and that type of thing, he said.

Bun has been a chauffeur for the Daughters of Charity in Emmitsburg for 20 years, taking them to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and the doctor's office.

"I enjoy it," Bun said. "I like to drive. You're not going to lose me in D.C."

Bun has also found a lot of satisfaction running the memorial fund and helping young athletes get in the game.

"Of course, I get invited to a lot of banquets," he joked.