My Mom, Louise Wright Miller, 90, of Westminster, died Saturday, July 3 at Dove House in Westminster.
Mom was the contemporary matriarch of a farming, business, and banking family with community leadership roots in the Mt. Airy-Sykesville area of central Maryland, dating back hundreds of years.
She was born on one of the Wright-Warfield-Grimes-Farver family farms in Taylorsville on Feb. 13, 1931. She was the daughter of William Earl Wright, a World War I cavalry military police veteran, and Bessie Warfield Grimes Wright, a farmer and culinary artist. Mom was the granddaughter of William Walter and Estella Mae Farver Wright.
Mom enjoyed sharing stories of her childhood life on the farm, including stories about helping to harvest wormseed. According to an Aug. 30, 2004 article by Carrie Ann Knauer for the Carroll County Times, Wormseed oil was an old-time medicine used to treat intestinal worms in animals and distilled from the wormseed plant. It was an important agricultural commodity to Carroll County farmers during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Carroll County was the main supplier for an international demand for this oil.
According to a February 2006 interview with then-Maryland State Sen. Larry Haines – a family relative; Wormseed was the main source of income for most farmers in the South Carroll area.
Throughout her childhood, Mom faithfully attended Taylorsville United Methodist Church. She was the great-granddaughter of George E. and Mary E. Wright, who were among the first members of the church. According to oral tradition, before the mid-1800s, the Wright family were Quakers.
Mom was among 28 graduates of Mt. Airy High School in 1948. She immediately went to work as the first secretary at Mt. Airy High School, for Principal Quinton Earhart. She rode the school bus to work and continued to work at Mt. Airy High School until 1951. According to oral tradition, Mom lived her entire childhood on a farm that did not have electricity.
In 1951, she moved to Westminster and began working as a C&P Telephone operator for $39 per week. Her phone number was “64R’.
From 1953 to 1954, Mom and I lived at 40 Ward Avenue and our phone number was “1462J.” The letter stood for a party line. It meant that you shared the phone number with other folks, and you had to take turns using the phone, which often was difficult because one of the “parties” sharing the line was often on the phone.
Mom lived at several places in Westminster, but for most of the 1950s she rented an apartment from the Samios family at the food market at 306 East Green Street. She moved to the “tree street development,” Buckingham View, on Feb. 18, 1961 and subsequently lived there for 60 years.
After raising four children, Mom returned to work. She worked for 30 years at the Black & Decker plant in Hampstead as an accounting clerk.
She was predeceased by her brother, Raymond Earl Wright, who died of tetanus as a 2-year old toddler in 1923. She was also predeceased by her adopted brother Martin Grimes Fowler Wright, known as Uncle Buddy.
Martin was the son of her mother’s sister, (Aunt) Mary Grimes Fowler, who died in childbirth on the farm at the same time when Martin’s twin brother also died. Uncle Buddy died in a tragic automobile accident near Dennings on Taylorsville Road, on Oct. 12, 1946, along with her mother, Bessie Wright.
Surviving Mom are her children and spouses Kevin E. Dayhoff and Caroline Babylon of Westminster, Karen Minor of Westminster, Timothy and Lisa Frock of Claiborne and Tammy and Robert Handzo of Jacksonville. She was predeceased by her son-in-law, Steve Minor.
Mom cherished spending time with her grandchildren: Nick Frock and his wife Jessica; Adam Frock and his wife Natalie; Ryan Handzo and his wife Brittany; and Colin Handzo and his wife Kelly Handzo. Also, Alexandra Handzo and Connor Handzo.
She was a culinary artist who simply loved to cook and create unique recipes. Her kitchen artistry was the topic of a number of magazine and newspaper articles. She won numerous awards, and her recipes were widely published.
She was a member of the Taylorsville United Methodist Church until she transferred her membership in 1951 to the Westminster United Methodist Church. She remained very faithful and active in the church, serving on many committees and undertaking numerous responsibilities.
Growing up in Westminster, my family read newspapers voraciously. I learned to read by devouring the newspaper, magazines, and encyclopedias. Mom was really big on “World Book” and “Childcraft” encyclopedias.
Mom was a member of the Mt. Airy Historical Society, Carroll County Triad, and volunteered at the Carroll County Farm Museum. She was a member of the national AARP and an officer and active member of the local chapter, AARP #662 of Westminster.
Throughout her life she overcame enormous hardships and never complained. She strived to make a difference in her community by hard work and creativity. She was last matriarch of her generation. She will be missed.