Rebecca Reath Bigelow, 95, of Keedysville, Md., passed away Monday, April 29, 2013, at Fahrney-Keedy Home and Village in Boonsboro, Md.
Reath, as she was known by all, was born Nov. 9, 1917, in Patoka, Ill., to Augusta and Ezra John Painter.
At the age of 10, she and her sisters, Myrtle and Iris, and her brothers, Ben, Jack and Ed, moved to Yuma, Ariz., an area she always considered home even in her later years. In her own mind, she was always a "westerner."
Her father worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), administering irrigation canals in the Yuma area.
An excellent student, Reath skipped two grades and graduated as valedictorian of her class at the age of 16. She worked for a time as a secretary for the Coca-Cola Co., and met Herbert Bigelow at a church social. He was employed at the time as an announcer for a local radio station. They were married Dec. 8, 1937, and together raised three sons and a daughter.
When Herb became an officer in the U.S. Navy in 1943, Reath was instrumental in providing a stable home environment for the family despite the many moves that were required by his naval career. She ran households in multiple locations in Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, California, Guam and the Philippines. She organized and executed the moves to Guam and the Philippines without assistance when Herb was ordered to report immediately to his new duty locations, no small task for a mother with four children. She was the rock of the family during this difficult period and a source of love and support for her husband and children.
When Herbert retired from the Navy in 1958 and began work for the Department of Defense at the Pentagon, life calmed down considerably. The family moved back to the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., and in 1959, settled in Garrett Park, a place and home that Reath cared for dearly.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1965 and survived for 48 years, a testament to her toughness. It was about this time that Herb and Reath started exploring West Virginia for a summer vacation home, a search that would lead them to Dun Wurkin', the log cabin on the Cacapon River that Reath loved more than any other place in the world. Their final move came when Herb retired in 1978, as they left the bustle of the D.C. suburbs to take up residence at Windy Hill, their home in Keedysville, where they resided longer than at any other location.
Herb, her husband of 74 years, passed away Dec. 30, 2011.
Reath touched the lives of many, encouraged her children to do what they loved to do in life, and was an example of honesty, generosity and strength of character to everyone who came in contact with her. There are many who were not related to her who consider her their "grandmother." She will live in the memories of all those who knew her.
She outlived all of her brothers and sisters, and was preceded in death by her oldest son, David L. Bigelow.
She is survived by three children, Thomas J. Bigelow, Richard H. Bigelow and Sharon L. Draper; daughter-in-law, Patricia Bigelow; three grandchildren, David Bigelow, Daniel Bigelow and Michael Bigelow; and four great-grandchildren, Tyler, Noah, Sienna and Kate.
A memorial service will be Friday, June 28, 2013, at 11 a.m. at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 18313 Lappans Road, Boonsboro. A meal of fellowship will be held immediately after the service.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Hospice of Washington County, Md.
Arrangements were made by J.L. Davis Funeral Home, Smithsburg, Md.