Year in Review No. 7: County mourned prominent community members' deaths

This year marked the death of several prominent members of the Carroll County community, such as the state's first black treasurer, Westminster's economic development administrator and two judges.

Richard N. Dixon, former state treasurer

As Carroll County's first black resident elected to a state position, Richard Dixon broke barriers.

His achievements continued on as the state's first black treasurer and the first from Western Maryland to service in a state constitutional office in 100 years.

Dixon, of New Windsor, died June 7 at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore following a stroke earlier that week. He was 74.

"He had a very positive influence on this community, this county and this state," his sister Trudy Dixon Green said in June, noting his more than 30 years of public service and his eight years in the Army.

Dixon served on the county's Board of Education from 1975 to 1977, then as a state delegate for the county from 1983 to 1996, where he was known for his sense of humor and story-telling, Sen. Joseph Getty, R-District 5, told the Times in June.

In 1996, he assumed the post of state treasurer and stepped down in 2002 due to declining health.

"The fact that I'm African-American didn't make a difference," he told the Times in November 2002 of his political career. "My views reflected the views of Carroll County residents, they had to reflect those views. It's been a pleasure serving the people of Carroll County."


Matt Seidler, Airman

After work, Matt Seidler would frequently do more work. He'd study equipment and he'd prep for classes during his time with the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron.

There was no question that Seidler was meant to be a part of the Air Force's elite Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, family said after his death in January.

"Matt followed his dream," Marc Seidler said during his son's funeral service. "Being in the EOD was his calling. There was no second choice."

Seidler, a 2006 Westminster High School graduate, was killed by a roadside bomb in Southern Afghanistan on Jan. 5. He was 24.

His service earned him a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, a Air Force Commendation Medal and a Air Force Combat Action Medal.

Friends and family remembered him as dedicated to his job and possessing a competitive spirit.

The community mourned his death together, as neighbors placed hundreds of U.S. flags along the stretch of the road leading to the Seidlers' home.

Francis Arnold, former Carroll County Circuit Court judge

Fair and ethical, Francis Arnold had an affinity for the law that could not be measured, friends and family said.

"He loved the law, he followed the law, he believed in it," son Tim Arnold said. "I don't know anybody as ethical."

The former Carroll County Circuit Court judge died Feb. 1 after a battle with esophageal cancer. He was 82.

His humor was a mainstay in his life and in his job.

In 1967, he was admitted to the Maryland State and Carroll County Bar Associations. In 1980, he was appointed to Associate Judge of the District Court of Maryland and became a District Administrative Judge two years later.

He served as a Carroll County Circuit Court judge from 1990 until he retired in 1999.

"I got to know him both personally and professionally [and] you could see his transformation," said Stacy Shaffer, longtime friend who met Arnold from their membership in the Carroll bar association. "When he assumed that judicial role, he was a consummate professional. Still maintaining that sense of humor, and just had a way of handling the court room that is hard to capture in words."


James Caylor Carlisle, former New Windsor mayor

James Caylor Carlisle was a New Windsor man through and through. He loved the small town, his home, that his favorite part of vacation was coming back.

Carlisle, former New Windsor mayor, died Feb. 6 at the Golden Living Center in Westminster after a two-year battle with pancreatitis. He was 88.

He served on the New Windsor Town Council for two terms. Then, he assumed the role of mayor form 1989 to 1993. He was instrumental in building the New Windsor Middle School, which opened in 1995.

"He was easy to work with, very knowledgeable about the town and the people," said current New Windsor Mayor Neal Roop, who met Carlisle in 1979 when the two served together on the Town Council. "He was well-respected, loved by everyone and always a joy to be around."

Richard Thomas Yates, former Carroll County commissioner

During his time as a Carroll County Commissioner, Richard Thomas Yates liked to lighten the mood of a tough negotiation or a budget session.

He was known for his smile and his sense of humor, former Chief of Staff Robert "Max" Bair told the Times in March.

Yates, of Sykesville, died March 5 at Carroll Hospice Dove House in Westminster. He was 86.

He served in the Army during World War II and had worked as a contract specialist for the Department of Defense. Yates served on the Carroll County Board of Commissioners from 1994 to 1998.

Stanley Ruchlewicz, Westminster's economic development administrator

Stanley Ruchlewicz was a champion for Westminster's Main Street. He could walk into any store on the street and know the owner by name.

Ruchlewicz, of Sykesville, died June 5 at Carroll Hospital Center. He was 56.

He was serving as Westminster's economic development administrator at the time, and community members said his loss would leave a void in the city.

"He always looked out for the best interest of the city and the shop owners," Westminster Mayor Kevin Utz said. "He was a well recognized figurehead in Westminster as an employee of the city."

H. Samuel Case, former McDaniel dean of faculty, provost, professor and coach

H. Samuel Case's career path came unexpectedly.

As an undergraduate at Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College, he sustained a concussion while playing football during his sophomore year. So he decided to help coach the team at the school where he ended up staying as a faculty member for nearly four decades.

Case, of Westminster, died Aug. 22 at age 70 from complications from leukemia.

He taught human physiology and exercise science courses; coached football; and served as provost and dean of faculty at the college.

"In my opinion, he's what this college strives to represent," McDaniel College professor Skip Fennell told the Times.

Ronald Brewer, county Orphans' Court judge

When Carroll County native Ronald Brewer was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in August 2011, dozens of friends sent him letters telling him he was an inspiration - a nod to the impact he had in different county groups.

The former Carroll County Orphans' Court judge from Westminster died July 11 from cancer complications. He was 70.

He was an acting judge on the Orphans' Court at the time, a position he won in December 2010.

"[He] was very concerned about the people that were in front of him, tried to humanize everything and let them know that they weren't just being shuffled off," said Paul Zimmermann, the county court's Register of Wills. "He actually looked at the people."

Additionally, he is known around the county for his work with the Westminster Lions Club, Historical Society of Carroll County, the Carroll County Arts Council, the county's Republican Central Committee and more.

Charles O. Fisher Sr., Westminster attorney

Weekends, nights and holidays weren't always a time of rest for Charles O. Fisher, a longtime Westminster attorney. If he was needed to help someone's brother or father or mother get out of jail, he would be there.

"He was always ready to help take care of people and see if he could help them and work out their problems," daughter Miriam Fisher said. "He never hesitated for a minute no matter how inconvenient, no matter how tired he was."

Fisher, of Westminster, died June 22 at age 95. He formed the law firm Walsh & Fisher in Westminster and worked as a lawyer for about 65 years.

He served as the president of the Maryland State Bar Association, Maryland Institute for Continuing Professional Education of Lawyers and University of Maryland Law School Alumni Association. Additionally, he was part of a group of leaders that founded Carroll County General Hospital, now Carroll Hospital Center, serving on its board of directors for more than 50 years.

Jeff Barnes, car dealership owner

Jeff Barnes left behind a legacy, friends and family said, and it's one filled with different models, makes and colors of cars.

In 1983, he bought the Eldersburg car dealership, where he was employed at the time, because the current owner's health was declining. He changed the name to Jeff Barnes Chevrolet.

Barnes, of Winfield, died June 25, after a nine-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 68.

"Some people go fishing, some people go bowling, some people climb mountains; Jeff sold cars," Ken Dyer, general manager at Jeff Barnes Chevrolet, told the Times.


Junella Spencer, Human Services Programs of Carroll County employee

Junella Spencer's life revolved around others.

Whether she was working as an employee of Human Services Programs of Carroll County and The Shepherd's Staff or volunteering at St. John Catholic Church in Westminster, she was constantly helping others.

Spencer died unexpectedly at her Westminster home Nov. 5. She was 59.

It's a loss that left a void in the nonprofit community of Carroll County, friends and co-workers said.

"It seems no matter what corner of Carroll County you call home," The Shepherd's Staff Director Brenda Meadows said at a luncheon held in Spencer's honor, "you'd find yourself in conversation with Junella discussing how you could work together."

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