Church eases couple's move from home of 49 years to apartment

THE BALTIMORE SUN

WHEN ELMER Borcherding, 90, and his wife, Margaret, 93, went out for breakfast Sept. 3, they closed the door of their home of 49 years and never returned.

They knew they would be moving into a one-room apartment at the Maryland Masonic Home in Cockeysville after breakfast.

Members of their family and church community had planned carefully to ease the move. Carolee Borcherding, their deceased son's former wife, picked them up and drove them to Friendly's in Hunt Valley for breakfast.

They left their house just as they remembered it. After they left, Carolee's sister Ruth Smith supervised the move. Professional movers took the furniture the Borcherdings had selected, loaded it onto a truck and delivered it to their apartment.

The couple arrived at the Masonic Home to find their chairs and television, Elmer's exercise bike, the dining room hutch he had built, the kitchen table and chairs and pictures of Margaret's family all nicely arranged.

The one-room apartment was "comfortable, cozy and nice," Smith said. "We had it mostly unpacked by the time they got there."

The Borcherdings had worshiped at the Harwood Park United Methodist Church since 1941. Elmer helped build the church and went daily to check on it. Margaret sang in the choir. Their son, Sonny, played the organ until he died in 1987. The church felt compelled to help.

"We felt we owed it to them," Smith said. "[Elmer] was one of the pillars of our church."

The couple seem happy at their new apartment, although a bit homesick, Smith said. The large room has its own bath and a refrigerator, but no kitchen. The Borcherdings will get three meals a day and can engage in more activities now that they do not have to climb steps.

Smith has known Elmer and Margaret Borcherding since she was born, she said. Margaret was her teacher in a one-room school in Harwood in the late 1920s, and then taught for many years at Elkridge Elementary School. Margaret sang at Smith's wedding.

Elmer, along with Smith's father, Albert Parrott, and others, worked on the congregation's first chapel in Hanover in 1919.

Originally, the nondenominational, independent church held services in Hanover in a barnlike building owned by Almira Sweeten. One Sunday, the story goes, Sweeten decided that she did not want the church to meet in her building anymore. So after the service, she removed the ladder to the meeting room.

The group decided to become a Methodist church and moved a chapel from Fort Meade to a lot at the corner of Hanover and Race roads in 1919. According to church history, the congregation worshiped in a tent on the Hanover lot. Parishioners worked on the new church by lantern light during the week.

Elmer says he pulled nails for the project. He was 10 years old.

In the 1930s, the congregation decided to move to Harwood -- one of Howard County's first planned communities -- where many of the parishioners lived.

Harwood was laid out in 1893 to attract families whose men commuted to Baltimore by train. Restrictions specified -- among other things -- that buyers could not build "taverns, saloons, tanneries, slaughterhouses, skin dressing, glue, soap, candle or starch manufacturing establishments."

In 1941, the men of the congregation built the Harwood Park Methodist Church at Highland and Euclid avenues. It is the only public building in the small community -- about four by six blocks tucked between U.S. 1 and the railroad tracks.

It has been a "little neighborhood family church," said Eileen Goldhammer, who began attending with her husband, Howard, 45 years ago.

By April, Elmer Borcherding could no longer come to church. Church members wondered how they could help. Elmer required care, but Margaret was not ready to move from their home.

The church women offered to cook meals for the couple. Each took a different night of the week. From April until they moved last month, Anna Mae McKissick, Betty Stevens, Jean Linder, Dorothy Baker, Muriel Seitz, Marge Poteet and Eileen Goldhammer brought meals to the Borcherdings every evening.

Eileen and her husband took Saturdays as their meal night.

"They weren't inclined to do Meals on Wheels," Eileen said of the Borcherdings, "so we made arrangements." Howard cooked the meals, and they stopped and got pie from a grocery store.

"They were grateful," Eileen said, adding that the Borcherdings ate the pie first. "We felt that this is a very little thing that we can do."

Howard and Ed Falls took Elmer and Margaret to their medical appointments. Al Parrott, Smith's brother, looked over the Borcherdings' finances and searched for a retirement home for them. He recommended the Masonic Home.

The Borcherdings wanted to come to church one last time before they moved. But they couldn't conquer the steps to get out -- there were five steps from their porch to the sidewalk -- so the congregation shortened the service at the church, took the hymnals and walked to their home to finish the service.

Elmer and Margaret's grandson, Charles Borcherding Jr., accompanied the hymns on the piano in the living room.

"We must have sung the first verses of 35 to 40 hymns," Smith said.

The whole church gathered in the seven-room house. Elmer cried and Margaret was animated, said McKissick. "Oh, isn't this wonderful that everyone came!" Margaret said.

"Nobody likes walking out their door for the last time," McKissick said. "We tried to keep them there as long as we could."

After the move, McKissick and other parishioners, led by Smith, went to the Borcherdings' home and sorted through their possessions. McKissick said they found an Eastern Star Bible that Margaret wants to be buried with, and put it aside. They found 100 pairs of size 5 shoes. "Nobody wears a size 5 shoe!" Smith said.

Some of the Borcherdings' furnishings were placed in the church office and some pictures in the Sunday school rooms.

The women will sell some of the couple's household items -- as well as fresh-baked goods -- at the church's semiannual rummage sale from 8 a.m. to noon Nov. 13.

Information: the Rev. Robert Brookman, at 410-788-2555.

Cat alert

Ellicott City resident Phyllis Demario reports that her cat is missing.

Last Friday night, she let her cat Annie out onto the deck. The 11-year-old tortoise shell cat with a beige stripe on her nose disappeared. A second cat disappeared that evening about a mile away.

Demario suggests residents take special care of their cats as Halloween approaches. If you see a cat that looks like Annie, call Demario at 410-379-0527.

Congratulations

Patrick Walsh of Ellicott City and Sarah Lippa of Elkridge participated in Salisbury State University's freshman orientation wilderness program.

Casey Atkinson, special education teacher at Burleigh Manor Middle School, was recognized by the Baltimore Area Committee on Student Teaching as an Outstanding Supervising/Cooperating Teacher for 1998-1999.

Ellicott City resident Joe Jenkins was honored by Fairmont State College's alumni association as Outstanding Alumnus for 1999.

Larry Pekofsky, technology education teacher at Elkridge Landing Middle School, has received the Middle School Teacher Excellence Award from the Technology Educators Association of Maryland.

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