Town honors 20 who built it

Hall of Fame to induct past, present residents for their contributions

Founder, leaders on list

March 12, 2000|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Mount Airy, a town where the alumni association still meets though the high school closed decades ago, will create its own Hall of Fame in a ceremony March 21 -- the 106th anniversary of its incorporation.

The 20 inductees include the town's founder, former mayors, fire chiefs, postmasters, businessmen, and civic and church leaders -- influential residents from as far back as the early 1800s.

"It's the first and as far as we know the only one in the state that has a municipal Hall of Fame," said David Greenwalt, a volunteer with the Historical Society of Mount Airy Md. Inc. and president of Ad Pro Mark Inc., an advertising, promotions and marketing company in Sykesville.

Tickets sold out in less than two weeks for the ceremony, when the honorees will be enshrined in plaques and photographs at the historical society's Mount Airy Museum, in the lower level of the old town hall at South Main Street and Park Avenue.

The winner of the town's sixth annual Outstanding Person of the Year Award, for achievement last year, will be announced at the event.

The Hall of Fame was Greenwalt's idea -- an outgrowth of the award contest he began six years ago when he was publisher of the Mount Airy News, which closed in 1996. But the award honored only the living, he said, not the dedicated townspeople of past generations.

Mayor Gerald R. Johnson suggested that it be made bigger and better.

"We needed to go back and thank the people that put the town to where it is now," he said. "We have a museum with artifacts and tangible stuff. But it's when you put personalities and people's faces to these stories -- I think people connect more to people. That was the idea behind it."

Also, he said, "These Hall of Famers might stir them to volunteerism."

Three living inductees

Of the 20 charter members, three are living. They are:

Norman E. Etzler, who turns 90 this year and was mayor from 1954 to 1958. He helped start Little League baseball in town. A manager of the Mount Airy Milling Co., he was catcher on the town baseball team and sang in the choir for more than 60 years at Calvary United Methodist Church.

C. Oscar Baker, 77, who is former president of the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company. During 58 years as a volunteer, he oversaw the purchase of 45 acres for carnival grounds, ball fields and an activity center.

"His vision was incalculable, really. It's quite a valuable piece of property," said Greenwalt. "But at the time, a lot of people thought he'd lost his mind."

Baker also was named by the mayor to head a committee to oversee the development of a senior housing project for the town, so its older citizens wouldn't have to move, Greenwalt said. A charter member of the town's American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, he also serves on the town planning commission.

Travis Norwood, a lifelong resident who is the youngest inductee at 72. He served as the town's postmaster from 1971 to 1984, chaired the town's centennial celebration in 1994 and serves as president of the Mount Airy Historical Society.

"The man does a number of different things," Greenwalt said. "He's overseen the renovation of Pine Grove Chapel, the oldest structure in Mount Airy, built in 1846. He's also been the person that's been the caretaker of the cemetery behind the church."

"He's basically the kind of guy, if you want to get it done, he's the man to do it. He's earned the title that a lot of people call him: `Mr. Mount Airy.' "

Norwood also is "the prime mover of the alumni association of Mount Airy High School, with over 1,100 members out there. Every year they hold a sold-out banquet. It's one of the toughest tickets in town. The last class graduated in 1967, and the alumni association is more than 85 years old. Some graduated in the nineteen-teens."

These three inductees will be chauffeured in a limousine to the gala.

The 17 other inductees are:

Howard "Happy" Albright, who died in July 1986. He owned Hipsley-Albright furniture and appliance store, now Bohn's, and was a founding member of the Carroll County Association for Retarded Citizens, now ARC of Carroll County.

The town's founder, Henry Bussard, who was born in 1794 -- 100 years before the town was incorporated. He was among the first settlers in the early 1800s. Much of the 250 acres he owned became the town, which straddles the Carroll-Frederick County border. Bussard owned a store, served as postmaster, helped to found Pine Grove Chapel, which housed the first school in town, and helped bring a railroad spur through town.

Grocery-store owner Lindsay L. Browning, who died in 1982. Almost 30 of Browning's relatives will attend the banquet, said Greenwalt.

Attorney L. Pearce Bowlus, who was editor of the weekly Community Reporter from 1929 to 1959 and the town attorney from 1939 to 1959.

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