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Unsung Heroes

Life's Lessons and Joys from Harry Hahn

Michele Cuseo

When I met Harry I couldn't believe he was really 92 years old. He had a full head of hair, a twinkle in his eye and a ready smile. His old farmhouse was cozy and welcoming - very much in character and spirit with the Norman Rockwell prints on the wall.

Harry couldn't understand why anyone would want to interview him-but I had already heard about Harry from several people in the Emmitsburg area about his good deeds, the helping hand he extends to everyone and his cheery disposition.

First of all-Harry claims he is lucky to be alive at all. At just a year old he survived the infamous 1917 flu virus that killed so many people. He shared some of his earliest memories. "You can live without milk. I was raised on coffee soup." Harry explains that coffee soup consisted of homemade bread, broken up real fine, with coffee and sugar poured over it. "It was delicious."

In his youth his family lived near the Eyler Valley Chapel. In fact the Chapel is located on the corner lot of land where his family lived and farmed. "Everyone in the area went to the Eyler Valley Chapel. It was non-denominational. It didn't matter what you were. Everyone went there," says Harry. All the children also went to the same one-room classroom at the Hampden Valley School. Harry remembers Ms. Myrtle Eyler Troxell who taught all 7 grades consisting of less than 30 children. During recess Myrtle would let Harry run home to stoke the fire.

When Harry was close to his tenth birthday his mother died leaving behind 12 children (there had been thirteen-one died as an infant). Harry was the eleventh of the thirteen children. This happened right before the Great Depression. During those hard times the family did what they had always done, run their farm, grow a garden-mostly planting a lot of beans and grain that they could sell. Then in 1929 his family started a family reunion. Some older siblings starting to branch out on their own would meet the last Sunday of the month. This tradition has lasted for 80 years.

Once he graduated from the 7th grade Harry had to work hard driving tractors and working with other farmers doing the work of thrashing (the process by which the grain or seed of cultivated plants is separated from the husk or pod.) It was also in farm work that Harry learned to work on machines like gas-powered engines. These fix-it skills he would master and use in his later years.

And how did men and women meet to get to know each other and court (date) each other? "Why, we would meet at Church!" says Harry. "That's where we socialized-it was a place for everyone to meet-not just for Church services-but other activities as well." That's where he got to know his first wife Vada Masser.

One of his first jobs after working on farms was working at a trucking company that was followed by a job hauling milk. Harry chuckles, "I used to pick up milk cans from the very farmhouse that I live in now." Some of his happiest times were during the years he worked hauling milk for Koontz's Creamery. He said he would have some time off in the afternoon to explore and get into other things. He was married to Vada and they had two children, Harriette and Bub.

He lost Vada after 23 wonderful years of marriage. He comments that it was probably one of the hardest things he ever experienced. Later he would find love again with Margaret Springer who had also lost her spouse of 23 years just as he had.

Harry ended up working at the Taneytown Southern States for 23 years, 13 as the Manager. Southern States rewarded Harry for his hard work and good sales by granting him a bonus of free trips abroad. He was able to travel to Switzerland, Hawaii, and the Dominican Republic.

Another very important part of Harry's life has been belonging to and supporting the community of the Elias Lutheran Church in Emmitsburg. He has dedicated himself to helping to make improvements and fixing whatever needed to be fixed for the church and the people as well. If there was something that no one could figure out how to fix, it's "Let's call Harry." From plumbing to carpentry to machinery, Harry would figure out how to work with and fix whatever came his way.

Once Harry retired he started to enjoy repairing antique farm equipment and machinery. He would find some old equipment and see if he could get it to work again. He became famous for being able to revive old machinery. People would bring him hard to fix items and he would get them going again. Harry says he remembers a day when he invited his brother over to tinker with the engines with him. His brother, who was suffering from cancer at the time, told Harry that working on the equipment together helped him escape from his troubles and how grateful he was to Harry. Seems Harry was also good at repairing other things besides equipment.

Harry at one point had four trailers full of engines and machinery that he had revived. The Mountain Gate restaurant bought two of these big trailers from him to use to display the antiques at their Waynesboro Mountain Gate Restaurant.

There are only two brothers left surviving from his large family, Harry and Jim. Harry unfortunately lost his second wife Margaret years ago. He still feels fortunate to have been married to both of his wives. "No man could ever find two better women. No finer ever existed." says Harry pausing, a bit choked up. " I think they would say that I also returned the favor." Then he chuckles with that glint in his eye.

Read other articles about people who have helped shape Emmitsburg