TANEYTOWN - Bessie Dougherty's unselfish efforts on behalf of church and community span nearly a half century.
But when she heard that her dedication had been recognized with her selection as Carroll County's "Most Beautiful Person," she didn't believe it.
"You have the wrong person, or you don't have your glasses on," she told the caller.
However, there was no case of mistaken identity or blurry vision.
The 79-year-old great-grandmother and tireless church and Taneytown volunteer was selected from among 32 nominations by the Carroll steering committee for Gov. William Donald Schaefer's fourth annual Maryland's Most Beautiful People Award.
The program acknowledges the important contributions that volunteers make to their communities and the state.
The volunteer work she does at her church helps others and brings her joy, said the slender Dougherty, an unassuming woman with softly waved, gray hair, as she sat in her neat, picture and handwork-adorned home on Taney Drive in Taneytown.
Every Tuesday morning, she and a dozen or so "Happy Helpers" gather at the 600-member Trinity Lutheran Church in Taneytown to quilt, crochet lap robes or create handcrafts for nursing homes. Dougherty initiated the group two years ago.
For 15 years, Dougherty also has been president of the Mite Society, a group that serves food without charge at weddings, funerals or birthday parties.
"We do this for the church members," she said.
Mite Society members sell soup, sandwiches and pie at Calvin Amoss' Auction Barn in Taneytown to raise money for recorded tapes of the worship services, which are taken to 12 or 15 shut-in parishioners each week by the Parish Life Committee.
Dougherty, a leader in the Parish Life Committee for many years, said the group assumes responsibility and enlists helpers for the mother-daughter and father-son banquets, the strawberry festival and fellowship meals.
Dougherty is also a charter member and past president of the Taneytown Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary, which conducts spring and fall suppers each year, plus "feeding the Lions Club and different organizations."
Once a week, Dougherty devotes time to processing paper work in the lab at Carroll County General Hospital.
"I used to go more often," she noted of her 20-year stint.
Ten years ago, Dougherty and Mary Richardson started the gift shop at Carroll Lutheran Village, a Westminster retirement community where Dougherty serves on the auxiliary board and continues to help once or twice a month in the shop.
For six years, she served on the Carroll County Committee on Aging, where she oversaw various senior centers.
Meals on Wheels recipients benefited from Dougherty's helping hands once a week for more than 15 years.
"I drove for many years and then started to pack meals," she said.
In what spare moments remain, Dougherty enjoys needlework, handcrafts and assisting her husband, Harry Dougherty Sr., in his service club activities.
"She's earned the award," said Bessie's partner of 56 years. "She's never home," he added humorously.
Bessie was born in Frederick County but later moved to a Keymar farm. She met Harry Dougherty, now an incumbent candidate for Judge of the Orphan's Court, at Haugh's Lutheran Church in Ladiesburg, Frederick County.
They moved to Taneytown in 1937 from the Detour area when Harry began working in Brockley's grocery store. Later, they bought the business. About 20 years ago, a new building erected just down the street became Dougherty's Superthrift. Upon retirement, Harry sold it to Reindollar Hardware.
Along with her civic activities, Bessie finds time to devote to son Harry Jr., 55; grandchildren Tony, 26, and Tracey, 22; and great grandchildren, Tiffani, 6, and Tobi, 5.
Why does Carroll's Most Beautiful Person give her time and effort so generously?
"I like people. I'm helping people when I do these things," she replied.
Dougherty's nominations came from Dean Reindollar and Jerre Musser, Taneytown, and Audie and Bill Lauterbach, Manchester.
Maggy MacPherson, county public information coordinator, said the steering committee's selection of Carroll's Most Beautiful Person "was very difficult because all are deserving."
MacPherson said that nominations doubled over last year, which she attributed to increased promotion and publicity in the media, clubs and churches.
Mrs. Dougherty and the 31 other community volunteers will be honored at a special reception Oct. 24 with the County Commissioners.
Winners from Maryland's 23 counties travel to Annapolis Oct. 30 for a recognition ceremony with the governor.