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Accolades mark a life of volunteering Westminster woman lauded for 4-H service

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The Westminster woman who is believed to be the longest-serving 4-H volunteer in the country was surprised recently to be honored for 58 years of volunteer service.

Fifty-eight years? thought Kathryn Frock. Why 58?

"Maybe they don't think I'm going to be here for 60 years," she said with a smile last week.

If there were a grandmaster of homemaking, Frock, 80, would qualify: Her skills range from the "seven-day pickles" she puts up to the carefully centered daisy buttons on a dress she made in 1936 that swept 4-H Club local, state and national needlework honors.

"It's Bemberg material, one of the first synthetics," Frock said, fingering the buttons. "These buttonholes were so small, they had to be turned with the tiniest needle and thread."

A widow for 20 years, she has traveled to various homemaker conventions around the country for 16 years, "sort of my vacation."

This homemaker also designed her suburban-style house on Uniontown Road, where she has lived for 48 years. She explained that she enjoyed working with the graph paper they had used to plan rearranging furniture in home-economics classes at Taneytown High School.

Frock glows with shy pride in recalling the builder's reaction. "I thought they'd have blueprints made, but he said it was drawn so sound that he didn't have to do anything."

But it is as a volunteer that this grandmother really shines.

"This woman is phenomenal," said Bob Shirley, Carroll County's recently retired extension agent for 4-H. "The amount of volunteer work she's still doing and the number of organizations she's giving support to. And she still is a very strong, active leader," he said.

"Who knows how many thousands of young people's lives she has touched in those 58 years? A tremendous number," said Shirley. "I want to emphasize the fact that she spends so much time with young people.

"And she was a member before that. We will continue to recognize her every year."

He said he believes Frock has been a 4-H volunteer longer than anyone.

At the U.S. Department of Agriculture, national 4-H program leader Allan Smith said information on length of service isn't kept for the 683,000 individual volunteer leaders at the national level.

"On the other hand," he said, "I never heard of a volunteer leader who had any more time than that."

Shirley noted that Frock also was a founder in the mid-1950s of Carroll County Agricultural Center, which honored her last year with its Pioneer Award. She serves on its board of directors.

Her other major volunteer commitments include her church, Emmanuel (Baust) United Church of Christ in Tyrone, the County Horticulture Club, the Carroll County Farm Museum, and the Family and Community Education Association -- formerly the Carroll County Extension Homemakers.

Demonstrations at museum

At the farm museum, she has demonstrated cooking, lap-quilting and caning chairs and helped with school tours. She has traveled to county elementary schools to amuse the children -- and give the teachers a break -- by making corn-husk dolls.

She helps sew quilts and tote bags for patients at Springfield Hospital "so it will look more homey for them."

Of course, she's in the Carroll County 4-H Fair Board's Hall of Fame, and a 1995 citation from the governor for her 4-H service hangs on a living room wall.

Born in Mayberry on June 17, 1917, the former Kathryn Myers joined a 4-H Club in 1934. She was a leader by 1940 and helped found clubs wherever she lived. She serves as a leader for two of them: at her church and in Westminster, where a club had folded before she moved there.

She was married in 1946 to Russell Frock, who was a printer and pressman at various companies, including the Sunpapers. The couple moved to Melrose, then to the house on the outskirts of Westminster in 1950.

Not farm background

Her home overlooks the city's last patch of pasture for cattle -- which congregate in the shade of her backyard tree.

"If they see me, they come on over" for handfuls of grass, said Frock, who worries about the effect a planned housing development will have on the traffic as well as the cattle.

She doesn't know beef from dairy and doesn't have a farm background: Her father was a house painter, builder and barber, and her mother worked in a canning factory. In high school, she said, "I had taken commercial course, but they did not have too many office jobs around."

She worked in a sewing factory on the top two floors of the Opera House on East Main Street -- almost dropping out of school in her junior year when the National Relief Act boosted her wages to an unheard-of $14.40 a week in 1933.

Taught at college

Frock had her second paying job decades later, after her husband died, when she taught needlepoint, rug-hooking, knitting, crocheting and embroidery for about eight years at Frederick Community College.

Between those two jobs were untold hours of unpaid labors of love.

"I'm entering my 59th year with 4-H, but I've been a Sunday school teacher even longer -- for 60-plus years," Frock said.

Sewing and other needle arts are her forte, Frock said.

One of seven children, she was the eldest of five girls.

"My mother taught me to sew, and I sewed for all five hundreds of dresses." She shows a coat with fur collar, a carefully matched plaid wool suit from the 1980s and other blue-ribbon garments.

Her mother, Maude Zimmerman Myers, died in 1995 -- independent until the last two of her 105 years. A sister, Truth Haines, died last year. Her other sisters and two brothers are still living.

In addition to her volunteer activities, Frock sews, crochets, cooks, tends her flowers, quilts and cans.

"Oh, I keep busy," she said, smiling at the understatement. "If you can do something and you're willing to do something, they ask you to do something.

"I guess it's because there are all kinds of things that I like to do," Frock said. "I like people and children -- I guess I wouldn't be working with them this long if I didn't."

Pub Date: 4/12/98

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