Loss of A Good Friend

Thomas R. Gingell

Thomas R. Gingell, at Bridgewater, Virginia.

Gingell family

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On April 6, 1999, THOMAS ROBERT GINGELL, 80, of West Main Street, Emmitsburg, Maryland, passed away at Frederick Memorial Hospital. The husband of Jane Bollinger Gingell, he was a member of numerous antique automobile and steam engine organizations. A past commissioner of the Town of Emmitsburg, he was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6658, and American Legion, Francis X. Elder Post 121, both of Emmitsburg. Gingell served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He owned and operated Gingell's Quarry, Fairfield, Pa., for many years. He was retired from the Maryland State Highway Administration.

Surviving in addition to his wife are three children, Pinny Davis, Robert T. Gingell and Francie Thomas. From Mark Corson of 9374 Roosevelt Street, Crown Point, Indiana 46307, we received a copy of the following eulogy, written and presented by Jeff Thomas, Mr. Gingell's son-in-law, at the funeral. Photos are provided by the Gingell family.

It is difficult to capture 80 years of living, especially Tom Gingell's living, in a short eulogy. I am going to let Tom tell you about the first 18 years in his own words nobody could have done it better. . . In the spring of 1936, Tom and Jane, his wife of 57 years, completed a high school assignment to write an account of themselves. I am amazed at how seriously they took these assignments, and how well, and honestly, they spoke of themselves. Here are excerpts from Tom's account:

An Account of Myself by Thomas Robert Gingell

'I was born in Zora, Pennsylvania, on October 15, 1918. My parents were of German and Irish decent, mostly German. I lived with my grandmother until I was 12 years old, the moved to Emmitsburg with my mother and about three years later moved back with my grandmother.

'The person that influenced me most was my uncle [Herb] and I always wanted to be like him because I thought he was the top of perfection.

'In my grammar grades I made fairly good marks but when I got to high school, oh! I never made over a C until my senior year and that was aB.

'Some of my travels were a trip to Chicago in the summer of 1934. Three other fellows and myself went to the International Exposition in Chicago. We did some high class traveling in a Model T Ford.' (Keep in mind, Tom would have been 16 years old when he took that trip.)

'In the summer of '35, Howard Kirwen and myself went to New York City. We had one swell time. I will never forget it as long as I live, because I still feel the effects of it.

'At the present, I am going to school but expect to graduate this year, '36. When I get out, I expect to work for my uncle taking care of things around the plant. But, until my mental ability is more cultured I guess I will drive a truck.'

In the quarry, Tom was a water boy, and a truck driver. Later on, Uncle Herb gave Tom and his brother George the operation, and they ran Gingell Quarries for many years. It is interesting to note that Tom doesn't mention growing up without a father. His father died of the flu and was buried the day Tom was born.

Tom Gingell knew Jane Bollinger since first grade, and we know how that turned out. No account of Tom would be complete without Jane, and so I want to read a part of her high school account,. It's amazing how similar they were.

An Account of Myself by Jane Rebecca Bollinger

'In school my marks were about average, but due to my badness and my having to stand in the corner every day, I was kept from studying as much as the others. I wouldn't study, and they couldn't make me, because I had my mind set. In my junior year, I started to study, but found it difficult to do so when there was a boy that was attracting all my attention, and taking all my time from my studies.'

Well, that boy was Tom. They broke up after that, and Tom was devastated. Tom decided he might win Jane back if he had a new car, so he borrowed the money from his grandmother and bought a 1937 Ford 4-door Phaeton. Jane thought she would like to ride in that car, and the rest is history. They went together for five more years and got married in 1942. Their first daughter Pinny was born that year, their son Bob was born a year later. Fifteen years later, in 1958, their daughter and my wife, Francie, was born.

In World War II Tom was a Machinist Mate in the Navy, stationed in Xiapain. Tom also worked for many years for the state of Maryland as a highway inspector, before retiring. But what was his life's work? Tom loved old things. Old furniture, old cars, old steam engines, old clocks, old toys, old scales, old mills, old fans, old stuff. He liked to restore old things, collect old things, and give them to his family. Look at his home, or my home, or Bob's home, or Pinny's home, and you will find Tom's work there. This eulogy was written in my home at a table that Tom restored. He sold some things, but he didn't do it to make money. He did it because he got pleasure from returning things to working order. And he was good at it. He restored a 1913 Buick touring car, which is seen every year in the Fourth of July parade in Emmitsburg. He restored and learned to operate a 1920 Case 50 HP steam engine, which he took all over the country to show. He took much pleasure in the delight these treasures brought to people, especially young people. He loved to give rides and to teach young children to operate the old steam engine.

No life would be complete without an airplane, and Tom had one of those, too. He was flying it low over the Potomac River near Sheppard-stown one day. As he rounded the river bend, there stood the James Rumsey Bridge. As Tom tells the story, his choices were to hit the bridge, or fly under it. As he flew under it, he could see fishermen diving out of their boats and into the water.

Tom loved the company of good friends. He was a man of enormous wit and good humor. His laughter was distinctive, and infectious. He was honest and direct. He could say things to people that no one else could get away with. He could teach you to accept and laugh at your own faults, because he accepted himself. He loved this country, and he and Jane traveled it extensively. Because of his personality and interests in steam, and antique cars, he made many, many friends all over and shared many, as he put it in 1936, swell times with them.

Tom and I shared a common interest in restored machines, and for the last ten years or so, my wife Francie and I have traveled with Tom and Jane to the antique equipment shows and museums around the country. It was Tom that suggested I get a Model A Ford. Tom's most recent project was to complete restoration of a 1937 Ford four-door Phaeton (just like the one he had when he was 18). Tom and I have spent many hours working together on these two cars. In his shop and in my garage Tom taught me what he knew about restoring and operating old equipment. Tom was my friend, and there wasn't anything Tom wouldn't do to help me, or any of his friends out, on a project.

So what did I learn from Tom? Go nice and slow when using a hacksaw, and you'll get a cleaner cut. Have a good sense of humor. Accept your own faults with humor. Help your friends. Enjoy your family.

Though he is gone, he is not forgotten, and there is much to remind us of him. When I look around at the things that Tom restored, I think, Tom Gingell did that. When I look in my heart, and see what I learned from Tom, I think, Tom Gingell did that too.