Md. Woman was among those who marked the world of work | Maryland News

By DAVE McMILLION, The Herald-Mail

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — Mary Clever loved to tell stories. They are unique snapshots of history.

She and her family endured the Great Depression, and she joined thousands of women working in factories and shipyards during World War II. Their work earned them the nickname “Rosie the Riveter”.

Mary recounted how she shook hands with John F. Kennedy in 1960 and how a fatal school bus crash in 1935 devastated her class at Williamsport High School.

Mary knew a lot because she had seen him over a long period: 103 years before his death on February 28.

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Mary was born March 29, 1918 to Herman and Katherine Barkdoll of Lietersburg. Farmers for most of their lives, the couple had 17 children. Mary was number five.

She attended Williamsport High in the midst of the Great Depression and watched the school endure the bus crash that residents remember as particularly shocking to the community.

A group of students from the school had taken a trip to a chemistry fair and were crossing train tracks in Rockville on April 11. A train hit the bus, killing 14 students on board.

“She was asked to take this trip,” said Hagerstown resident Katie Mollo, who is married to Mary’s grandson, Nick Mollo. It turned out Mary couldn’t go because her family didn’t have the dollar they needed to join, Mollo said.

The accident was the subject of a book, “The Rockville Tragedy”, written by local resident Debra Robinson.

Robinson spoke in a 2016 interview with Herald-Mail Media about how the accident devastated the Williamsport community. She described the “14 individual funerals” for the victims and how there were so many people who attended a mass memorial at school that some had to stand outside.

The community decided they wanted to erect something to honor the victims, Robinson said. The result was the Williamsport Memorial Library which stands today along East Potomac Street.

Mollo said Mary would talk a lot about the students who were killed in the crash, and among her mementos was a photo of her graduating class.

“Obviously it was just a small class because they lost so many,” Mollo said.

After graduating from school, Mary got a job as a kindergarten teacher, a job she got through the Works Progress Administration, a federal program to help people find jobs during the Depression.

From there she worked in a rubber factory, inspecting the valves of gas masks used by the military during World War II. Later, she landed a job with Fairchild Aircraft of Hagerstown, which was also war-related because women were entering the national workforce since so many men were sent to war.

Mollo said Mary loves telling stories about her work at the aircraft factory, and her role as ‘Rosie the Riveter’ was detailed during a visit she made to the Hagerstown Aviation Museum at Hagerstown Regional Airport in 2021.

The Mollos said at the time that as Mary’s 103rd birthday approached, they thought it would be good for her to have the chance to visit the museum, which features the types of Fairchild aircraft on which Mary has flown. work.

She wandered around the museum, admiring the paint job on the planes and how “so beautiful” they looked. Mary said she worked on airplane rudders, hinged wing sections and helped assemble small parts.

She brought a souvenir with her, a chuck of metal she called a “cutting block”. When a rivet was driven into a part, the block was placed on the other side to flatten the rivet and tighten the joint.

Mary explained that “you better be ready” when the rivet went through.

She worked at Fairchild 17 years in only one phase of her professional career. She was also an accountant at the Hagerstown Trust for 17 years and worked in the medical records at WF Prior on Bower Avenue in Halfway.

Her job at WF Prior was when she met John F. Kennedy.

The then-presidential candidate was passing through the area in May 1960 during his campaign when he stopped at the company to visit the workers. Mary is seen in a photo with Kennedy and sporting a broad smile over her experience.

The Mollos said Mary was eternally grateful for the moment, exemplified by a copy of a presidential portrait of him she kept in her basement.

Mary met her first husband, Jack Myers, at the Fairchild factory. Myers died in 1960. Fran Weiland of Linthicum remembers meeting her father, Harry D. Clever, with Mary. They were both living in Greenberry Hills in Halfway when their growing friendship turned into marriage.

Weiland described Mary as very caring and loving, and she became very close to her as a stepmother.

Harry Clever died in 1996 and Mary lived alone over the years in the halfway house she had owned since 1985.

In a 2018 Herald-Mail Media interview as part of her 100th birthday celebration, Mary said she spent her days cooking treats for her family, talking with friends, going to church and drive his 1996 Oldsmobile.

“I’m a little scared that I don’t know what the future holds,” Clever joked at the time. “I just want to stay alive.”

Asked about the roots of his long life, the Mollos said that other family members also had relatively long lives. Mary’s parents lived into their 80s and one of her recently deceased sisters was in her early 90s. Three of Mary’s sisters still live, two in the Hagerstown area and one in Frederick.

Although Mary loved fruits and vegetables, she also loved her pizza, chicken wings and chocolate bars, they said.

But she didn’t overeat and seemed to follow the “everything in moderation” rule, the Mollos said.

Maybe that was his secret.

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Maria D. Ervin