March is national Women’s History Month and this year Harford County government is honoring the memory of one of its most active community leaders of the past half century, as well as one of its most colorful political figures, the late Veronica “Roni” Chenowith.
The county administration has produced a short video, narrated by Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, to recognize Mrs. Chenowith’s “devotion to our community.”
Sitting on the fireplace hearth at the Veronica Chenowith Activities Center, Glassman talked about Mrs. Chenowith’s community activism that began when her two sons were young and she and her husband, Joseph, a homebuilder, had settled in Fallston.
She was active in the Fallston Recreation Council and the Youth’s Benefit Elementary School PTA and remained so, even as her sons grew older. She co-founded Fallston Rec’s youth football program.
In 1994, Ms. Chenowith, a Republican, ran for the Fallston area District B seat on the Harford County Council, winning the first of what would be four terms.
Tragically, during the final weeks of the campaign, her youngest son, Jeffrey, who had been a student at the University of Maryland College Park, and his girlfriend, were killed in a fire that was deliberately set. It was a difficult time, she admitted, but friends and family had rallied around her, and on election night she was quick to thank the community and God for the support she received.
As a council member, Glassman says in the video, Mrs. Chenowith sponsored legislation to facilitate the development of retirement communities in the county and to protect well water aquifers, the latter a critical issue – then and now – in her council district.
She seldom missed an Eagle Scout Court of Honor, whether held in her district or somewhere else in the county, was an active supporter of the Harford County Public Library Foundation and SARC. She served as the council’s representative on the Harford Cable Network advisory board and was an honorary member of the Boys and Girls Clubs.
Mrs. Chenowith was a co-founder of Harford United Charities, an organization that raised money for a number of local nonprofits from an annual gala that began as an inaugural ball for the new county elected officials in 1998. Glassman notes in the video that Harford United Charities raised more than $3 million.
Mrs. Chenowith died at her Fallston home on March 24, 2009, at age 70. She had been in failing health, but was able to attend the groundbreaking for the community center on the grounds of the Fallston Rec Complex that bears her name. Her husband attended the opening of the center in July 2010.
As reported by The Aegis, at one of the last council meetings she attended in February 2009, following a brief hospitalization, she said: “I’m back to my old fighting spirit. I’m not going anywhere. I want to thank people for their prayers; please keep the prayers coming.”
During her many years on the County Council dais, Mrs. Chenowith often talked about her faith with the reminder, “We’re only guaranteed today, and we should thank God for giving it to us.”
In closing the Women’s History Month video, Glassman says: “Roni’s spirit lives on. It lives on in the joy this activity center brings to citizens of the county she loved and the county that loved Roni in return.”