Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes “A Life Remembered.” Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about Evelyn Trovinger, who died July 24 at the age of 97. Trovinger’s obituary was published on Herald-Mail Media’s website the same day.
Parents of developmentally disabled children in Washington County can see the legacy of people like Evelyn Trovinger, who worked to identify the educational needs of the students and make learning facilities for them a reality.
The Leitersburg-area woman’s work in the field dates to 1958, when she and four other teachers instructed special needs children. They led the classes at what was known as the Halfway School, an elementary facility that is now Lincolnshire Elementary School, according to her daughters, Marian Griffith of Smithsburg and Margo Trovinger of Washington, D.C.
As the classes increased in size, they expanded into other facilities, including what was known as the North Street School, which today is beside the Robert W. Johnson Community Center off Jonathan Street, her daughters said.
Evelyn became principal at the North Street School, and she continued to help build the county’s special education system.
Vocational schools were becoming common in the 1960s, and support was growing for similar facilities for developmentally disabled students, according to Marian.
Kemp Horn Vocational Center
Evelyn, along with former Washington County Superintendent of Schools William E. Brish and a local special education supervisor visited special education vocational schools in Philadelphia, Gettysburg, Pa., and Fishersville, Va.
They pushed for a facility here, and state and federal funds were obtained to establish the Kemp Horn Vocational Center along Georgetown Road in the Smithsburg area in 1972. The property was the site of an existing residential home for children and adults that was named after a local minister.
Evelyn was named principal while also holding down the North Street School principalship, Marian said.
“She also worked to get grants and the money to provide the programs,” her daughter Margo said of the work at Kemp Horn Vocational Center.
Marian said her mother knew that overseeing two schools for developmentally disabled students was not going to be easy. Among the challenges was getting adaptive equipment for the kids, she said.
Evelyn organized fundraisers, like an “Applesauce Kick-off Day” on April 9, 1973, in Hagerstown. Apples for the sauce came from trees at the Kemp Horn Vocational Center, and Evelyn arranged for President Nixon’s daughter, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, to appear at the event along with a member of the Baltimore Colts, Marian said.
For a donation, event attendees had a chance to talk to the special guests.
Another fundraiser on April 18, 1974, was a “Ride A Bike” event in which riders collected pledges of donations. The 24-mile route extended through the county and Hagerstown.
Marshall Street School
Meanwhile, educational facilities for developmentally disabled students continued to expand in Hagerstown.
Discussions turned toward building a school for the students on Marshall Street and Evelyn worked with architects, contractors and state officials on completion of a facility in 1976 that today is known as the Marshall Street School/Job Development Program, which provides vocational training to special education students ages 14 through 21. The job development program was what had been the Kemp Horn Vocational Center.
Evelyn was born April 2, 1924, in New York City. She obtained a bachelor’s degree from New Jersey City University in 1945 and a master’s degree in education from Western Maryland College in 1965.
There was an increased demand for nurses during World War II, and Evelyn helped fill the need by enrolling in the U.S. Cadet Nursing Corps at Jersey City Medical Center.
Her husband, Frank, who died in 1985, was in the U.S. Army and was injured in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Frank was treated and went on to serve in the Philippines and other South Pacific areas. After his military service, he returned to Honolulu, where he met Evelyn, who was working as a nurse there.
Their relationship developed, but she was heading back to New Jersey for a job at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City.
Frank wanted to stay in Hawaii, but love won out and he moved to his native Hagerstown, where he continued a long-distance courtship with Evelyn, who was in Woodbridge, N.J.
They married in 1948. The couple had a third child, Mark, who lives in Sabillasville.
When Evelyn was completing her cadet nursing training at Jersey City Medical Center, she and four of her close classmates reflected on their last year together during the Christmas of 1944. They decided to buy four friendship rings for each other and have their initials engraved in them.
They had the rings all their lives and passed them onto their children.
“The last few years of my mother’s life, she would take the ring out of a box and state, ‘They are all gone but me,”’ Marian said.
“She truly was an example of what we should all be: acquire as much education as you are able, to use your knowledge for the betterment of others, sacrifice for the love of your country, give selflessly to your community and be the best parent you know how,” Marian said.