Gracie Mae Haga, a retired Western Electric telephone components assembler who grew up on a Virginia farm, died of COPD and old age complications April 12 at SpiriTrust Lutheran, the Village at Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania. She was 96 and lived in Mays Chapel and Dundalk.
Born in Chilhowie, Virginia, she was the second of five children born to Martin Hart, who was a lumberjack, and Bessie Blankenbeckler Hart, a farming homemaker.
“Her parents owned a working farm that provided them with all their needs,” said her son, Gregory S. Haga. “ Martin Hart was of English descent and Bessie Blankenbeckler of German descent. They had a hard life working on that farm seven days a week. Their day went from morning until dusk.”
He said his mother also worked the farm when she was not in school.
“My mother and her siblings did various chores, gardening, planting, harvesting, feeding livestock and food preparation, canning just about anything they produced for the winter months that was stored away,” he said. “Like many people from the Depression era, she left her formal education in the 10th grade to make money. She worked at a number of jobs, including a World War II production plant in Kentucky.”
After the end of World War II she met her her future husband, James E. Haga, while she was a waitress in a Chilhowie restaurant.
“She said that was the best job she ever had. She liked interacting with the customers,” her son said.
Her husband was a World War II Marine Corps veteran who had served in the South Pacific. They married May 29, 1948. She and her husband found jobs at a local hosiery mill.
“These mills were located throughout the South, now all but gone,” her son said.
The couple recognized that they needed to relocate for better employment. In 1956, they moved to Dundalk, where they secured good blue-collar jobs. He became a millwright at Bethlehem Steel Sparrows Point and she joined the Western Electric Co.’s Point Breeze Works in Southeast Baltimore.
She became skilled with soldering iron and made hand-assembled boards used to manufacture telephone equipment.
“She had a great group of co-workers. She was never racially prejudiced and she worked and partied with a diverse group of Western Electric friends,” her son said.
After establishing themselves in eastern Baltimore County, she and her husband took their family on vacations from New Jersey to Florida and other East Coast locations throughout the marriage.
“She and my father loved boating and owned four different boats over the years,” her son said. “They eventually purchased a shore home on Lynch Cove on Bear Creak.”
He said she came into her own during the summer months and celebrated holidays and weekends.
“They traveled throughout the Chesapeake by boat,” he said. “They made numerous overnight trips. In 1974, they sailed through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal and arrived at Ocean City.”
Mrs. Haga often threw a party for the coworkers she met at Western Electric. In 1980, she and her husband retired and she fulfilled a dream.
The Morning Sun
“My parents purchased a home in Daytona Beach, Florida, two blocks from the beach. Mae loved the beach more than anything, visiting the beach any day it was not raining. She enjoyed laying in the sun and was always talking to friends.”
Another son, Edwin Lee Haga, and his wife Linda also moved to Daytona.
“She welcomed friends and family with her entertaining ways, “ her son James said. “She insisted on taking everyone to the beach and gathering at the good local Daytona Beach restaurant spots. She never forgot anyone’s birthday with a card and a gift.”
In 2013, she and her husband returned to Maryland due to health issues. They lived in Mays Chapel.
“My mom had to give up the beach and her grandchildren, but she looked forward to her daily phone calls with her sister and sister-in-law,” her son said.
Survivors include her son Gregory S. Haga of Parkton; a sister, Ruth Epperson of Glennville, Georgia; a brother, Charles Hart of Chilhowie, Virginia; four grandchildren; many great-grandchildren; and a great-great grandson. Her son, Edwin Lee Haga, died in 2008. Her husband of 73 years died Dec. 3, 2021.
Services were held Thursday at the Lemmon Funeral Home.