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‘His heart was bigger than he was’: Skip Amass remembered for extensive community involvement

‘His heart was bigger than he was’: Skip Amass remembered for extensive community involvement
Skip Amass, 86, of Westminster, died Aug. 3. He is being remembered for his service to the community, particularly as a longtime, active member of the Rotary Club. (HANDOUT)

In the first year of the Rotary Club’s Oktoberfest, Skip Amass drove around the middle of the Carroll County Agriculture Center’s Shipley Arena in a golf cart as he checked in on everyone, making sure the event was going off without a hitch.

Jacie Mathias-Jones can still recall the sight of him — driving around the Westminster arena with his khaki hat on, wanting to be as involved as he could be — and hoping he didn’t accidentally hit someone with the cart.

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“That was Skip,” said Mathias-Jones, who worked with him in the Rotary Club. “It was — driving around and keeping everyone kind of on their toes. That was Skip.”

Dr. Arnold Amass — who went by “Skip” — was no stranger to community involvement, whether that meant attending weekly Rotary Club meetings and leading the prayer, helping out with one of the several organizations he had a role in or participating in various fundraising efforts.

Aside from his deep community involvement, loved ones described Amass, 86, of Westminster, as a man who spoke his mind and remained devoted to service until his death Saturday. He died of a heart attack, said Lee Primm, one of his friends for more than 40 years.

Amass led an accomplished educational and professional career. He started out in Baltimore City Public Schools, and then attended Baltimore City College and Western Maryland College before he was drafted into the U.S. Army., according to his obituary. He later returned to finish his degree at Western Maryland with honors. He married his wife, Pat, in 1957, and later graduated from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy with honors. He went on to work for places such as Read’s Drug Store and the NSA at Ft. Mead — and, he owned two drug stores in between.

Beyond his commitment to the Rotary Club, Amass was also involved in fundraising campaigns with the Westminster United Methodist Church, Westminster YMCA, Carroll County Historical Society, Carroll Hospital, Carroll Hospice, American Red Cross, the Boy Scouts and American Cancer Society, according to his obituary.

“There’s hardly a nonprofit you can name almost that he didn’t have some kind of involvement with,” said Jack Tevis, who knew Amass through Boy Scouts and Carroll Hospital. “He’s just totally others-centered, meaning what would benefit other people and nonprofit organizations that benefited the others in the community.”

And when some kind of fundraising activity was happening in the county, it’s likely Amass wasn’t just raising funds — he probably held a leading role in the effort, Primm said.

They first met in 1974. Primm was working at the Carroll County Bank and Trust Company, and represented a source of funds for Amass’ fundraising work in a time when local banks were donating heavily to community activities.

It wasn’t unusual for Primm to receive a call from Amass, who was working as a pharmacist, about raising the final dollars to meet a fundraising goal.

“He would call me and say, ‘Hey, the fundraising effort out at the air park has fallen $2,500 short. I’ll run by the bank here in another hour or so and I’ll pick up the check,’” Primm said.

He just assumed they’d work together to gather that money, Primm said, helping some campaign reach their goal.

“His heart was bigger than he was,” Primm said. “He would give every ounce of his energy to helping whatever cause it was that he was designated to work for or on behalf of.”

That kind of service eventually earned him a nickname — he was the “Rotarian’s Rotarian," fully embodying the ideals and motto of the organization, which is “service above self,” Mathias-Jones said.

“Everything that he believed in was his passion,” she said.

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He wanted “old school rotary" — with members attending regularly and being committed to the cause, Mathias-Jones said. There would be times when people would want to switch things up, maybe not have meetings every week.

“And he was adamant: No. This is how it is, meetings every week. If you can’t come, then you don’t come, but we’re not changing what the core of it is,” she said. “He was still planning on making a meeting this week.”

Brenda Frazier met Amass through the Rotary Club, which he was a part of for more than 46 years, when she joined in 2011.

They struck up a friendship, and she went on to work closely with him on the Carroll County Sports Hall of Fame, a project to recognize athletes for success on and off the court.

“It’s a great night that I hope we can continue to carry on what Skip started in the way that he did it,” Frazier said. “He had a great passion for it.”

Sometimes he’d find a way to combine a few of his passions together, like the Rotary Club train raffle he worked with Bill Gavin on for about 12 years.

Gavin said he liked to “dream up projects." So, when it came time for the raffle, he did most of the work setting up while Amass “did the decorating on the top.”

“He was the dreamer, I was the doer," he said. “But, you know, he dreamed that thing up by himself, and said, ‘Can you help me on this?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, OK.’”

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