Sunny Pritchard is an Old Town native and, since 1943, has never really left it. She grew up in a home on Talbott Avenue. She attended Laurel Elementary School and graduated from Laurel High School. She and her husband of 57 years raised their four children in a home along Montrose Avenue. And for the last 13 years, she has worked for the city of Laurel as the staff coordinator for the Historic District Commission.
Her last day of work is Aug. 31. Retirement begins.
"Laurel was a wonderful place to grow up and it was a wonderful place to raise kids," Pritchard said. "It's a great feeling when you get to my age and your whole life has been good, like everything has fit into place."
She just knew it was time to retire, even as she observed that, "walking into the office in the morning is like walking into a family."
As HDC coordinator, Pritchard's job was to serve as a liaison between property owners in the historic district who wanted to make changes to the exteriors of their homes or businesses and the commission tasked with upholding the historic district ordinance and preserving the nature of the neighborhood.
The most delicate cases often involved paint colors – "what one person calls colonial blue turns out to be beach turquoise," she said – and signage.
Pritchard is known for being warm and talkative with office visitors but said she is actually "bashful" and works hard to put residents at ease.
Her work ethic has been honed over 60 years. As a teenager, she worked for the Maryland Drug Store along Route 1 and at Catherine's on Fourth Street, where she recalls making cherry fountain cokes, hot fudge sundaes and banana splits. She spent nine years working for CISCO in Silver Spring and 21 years working for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Pritchard was doing desk work at a local radiology office when one of the patients, Mayor Craig Moe, encouraged her to apply for a job with the city.
"I didn't know that people used city government like they do," Pritchard said. "It was a real eye opener for me to see how involved the city is for the people of the city. They are sincerely here for the citizens."
Pritchard fondly recalls the Laurel of the 1940s, '50s, and '60s. She took dance classes at the Laurel Wreath Masonic Lodge and had recitals at the Laurel Sanitarium. Saturdays growing up started with chores and, after they were complete, a visit to the Laurel Theatre on Main Street. On Sundays, Pritchard and her sister would go to church at St. Mary of the Mills and then get a quarter to spend at Cordelia's Bakery on Main Street. The treat of choice was typically an éclair, which they ate on their walk home.
She often spent school afternoons at The Fireside in the 600 block of Main Street, which her grandfather owned, and remembers the hamburgers and jukebox there. She started dating her husband, Charles "Buddy" Pritchard Jr., when they were teenagers and the pair attended dances at the armory on Saturday nights.
Now they look forward to making new memories in retirement and enjoying time with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchild. The couple purchased a condo in Florida and plan to spend most of their winters there, but Laurel will always be a part of them.
"There is a love for this town that all Laurelites have," Pritchard said, "and it never leaves you no matter where you go."
The second annual McCeney March, sponsored by the Laurel Historical Society, will be held Saturday, Sept. 23, at 9 a.m. The event honors the late Jim McCeney, a past LHS president and chairman, and follows some of his favorite walking routes through the neighborhood. Proceeds from the march will benefit a scholarship for students interested in history.
Registration for the march is open now and costs $10 for children, $20 for adults and $50 for a family of four. The march begins at the Laurel Museum, 817 Main St. Registration forms and more information are available at laurelhistoricalsociety.org/the-mcceney-march.html or by calling 301-725-7975.