At 75, a poet in no rush Verse: A Uniontown woman has won honors for her poetry, but she only writes "when I have something to write about."


She might be Uniontown's poet laureate, but Dottie Fritz writes what she pleases when she pleases. For her, poetry is fun. Period.

She's won top honors in a contest that resulted in one of her poems being published by the National Library of Poetry. But a couple of years ago, she turned down a request by a community newspaper to write a weekly poetry column.

"I like to write when I have something to write about," said the 75-year-old Uniontown resident.

Fritz said she has been writing for more than a decade. She started by contributing verse for her church bulletin. Later, she began penning poems to commemorate special occasions for friends and neighbors.

"I have one I always use for friends who are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary," Fritz said. "And we have a number of friends like that."

Fritz and her husband, Melvin, marked their golden anniversary three years ago. The couple grew up in historic Uniontown. They attended the old redbrick Uniontown Elementary School together.

She is the daughter of John Hoch, who served as the minister of First Church of God in Uniontown -- also known as Bethel Church of God -- for 39 1/2 years. That church, which burned to the ground in 1976, was where Taneytown Bank & Trust now sits.

Fritz's father married the childhood sweethearts in 1944.

Fritz's poetry reflects her religious upbringing and her love of nature. Nearly all her poems have religious overtones.

"You have to understand I was raised in the Church of God," she said.

A childhood trauma that strengthened her faith and undoubtedly influenced her poetry was a bout with rheumatic fever in 1932 at age 10.

"I spent eight weeks in a hospital in Baltimore. They finally sent me home. They told my parents, 'Send her home. She's not going to live.' "

Fritz is an avid gardener, and her poetry reflects themes of flowers, birds and nature.

"I get such a joy out of writing," she said.

"When people enjoy a poem, that makes me feel good. I also take some of my poems to the nursing homes in Westminster."

When does Fritz feel the need to write?

It could be anytime. She may be in the garden or looking out of her living-room window, she said. Or it could be during twilight hours.

"Even in the middle of the night, if something comes to me, I write it down before I forget it," she said.

When she is not writing poetry, Fritz spends time with neighbors, especially the newer ones, and talks about the old times in Uniontown. She's regarded as a living history book of her hometown.

"We came up during the Depression years," Fritz said.

"It was hard, but we made it through. My father was the town fixer. He helped everybody. There used to be four or five general stores in Uniontown, and one had everything from tools to penny candy.

"And we used to have a baseball team and would play in the meadow at the old Devilbiss Farm. And we had festivals there, too. We would bring in a band, the New Windsor Band."

Porch-sitting was a big pastime.

"People would sit out on their porches in the summer and visit with neighbors," Fritz remembers.

Fritz acknowledges that she's not a prolific writer -- she's composed 25 or 30 poems in the 10 years she's been writing.

"Of course, you don't do it every day. I have enough to put a little book together. I just have never done it."

Pub Date: 4/03/97

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