Almost 50 years ago, when Karen Lowman came across a motorcyclist who had been hit by a car, she realized she didn’t know what to do.
That traumatic event led Lowman to enroll in an emergency medical technician class and go on to volunteer for various emergency service companies in Washington County.
Those volunteer experiences led to her volunteer work with the Maryland State Firemen’s Association.
Lowman, who lives in Waynesboro, Pa., and currently volunteers with Washington County Emergency Support Services, was inducted earlier this year into the Maryland State Firemen’s Association Hall of Fame.
Twylla Grove, who lives in the Leitersburg area and currently volunteers with Western Enterprise Fire Co. in Hagerstown’s West End, was inducted into the Hall of Fame for the state firemen’s association’s Ladies Auxiliary.
Both women consider their Hall of Fame inductions an honor and say they enjoy the camaraderie from participating in the emergency service community.
“I’m humbled by it,” said Grove, 69, who also serves as a chaplain for the Washington County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association.
Lowman said the Hall of Fame honor was a surprise. Even her family, who normally can’t keep a secret, didn’t give away the honor. Both of her daughters brought their families to the association’s summer convention in Ocean City, Md., to be there for the induction.
“I didn’t realize they were there until I got on stage,” said Lowman, 65.
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Service time saw changes for women
Lowman said she was particularly honored to become a female member of the state association’s Hall of Fame.
“There aren’t too many girls in the Maryland State Firemen’s Association Hall of Fame,” she said.
Fire service continues to be a male-dominated world, but she said women are taking a more active role in all aspects of fire and emergency medical services — both locally and on the state level.
Grove said she got involved in her first fire company ladies auxiliary by helping create the auxiliary for Antietam Volunteer Fire Co. in Hagerstown in 1984.
Her late husband, William Shaffer, was a member of Antietam and its treasurer.
“There wasn’t an auxiliary so a number of us wives got together and formed the auxiliary,” Grove said.
Back then they would make sandwiches at the fire hall to take, along with beverages, to firefighters out at time-consuming fire scenes, Grove said. Now there is a rehab truck to provide sustenance to firefighters and auxiliary members spend almost all of their volunteer time on fundraising efforts, she said.
Lowman’s career spans nursing and emergency services
Lowman, who grew up in Cearfoss, said she’s been volunteering with a local fire company since she graduated in 1975 from Williamsport High and the Career Studies Center, where she studied to be a licensed practical nurse.
But even that training didn’t prepare her when she came across the injured motorcyclist shortly after graduating.
Lowman said she “realized that I didn’t know squat.” Others encouraged her to take emergency medical technician training.
She helped Community Rescue Service, the nonprofit ambulance company that serves the greater Hagerstown area, for six months. Then she moved to Williamsport and volunteered for the local ambulance company, which later merged with the Williamsport fire company. She said she held different officer positions with Williamsport ambulance, including president.
“Bouncing around in the back of an ambulance after 40 years was a bit much,” so she switched to volunteering with support services. Support services helps prepare food and refill air tanks for firefighters.
She’s also had a career as a nurse, working for area hospitals, including the former Washington County Hospital and City Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va.; as well as for Hospice of Washington County and SpiriTrust Lutheran hospice based in Chambersburg, Pa.
“I’ve done it all,” including working in a hospital emergency department for 20 years and working in a hospital surgery center, Lowman said. In her spare time, she said she did some “fixed-wing flight nursing” for medical transports, including flights to Texas and Canada.
Now she has her “dream retirement job,” with more flexible hours, working at South Mountain Community Health in Boonsboro.
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Lowman said she’s been volunteering with the state firemen’s association for over 20 years, doing whatever is needed.
Her husband, Brian Lowman, chief of the local support services company, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017.
State Firemen’s Association Past President Dave Keller, who used to live in Williamsport, said Lowman works the convention registration table, a job not everyone wants. She helps over 365 fire companies with credentials, even before the paperwork was computerized.
She has a “friendly smile and is welcoming,” said Keller, who nominated Lowman for the Hall of Fame.
Grove involved at fire company, county and state level
It’s been about five months since Grove was inducted into the Ladies Auxiliary Hall of Fame and she said she still doesn’t know who nominated her, though she suspects it was a combination of people from Antietam’s and Western Enterprise’s auxiliaries.
She was president of Antietam’s ladies auxiliary for 14 years in the 1980s and ’90s. She also is a longtime member of Leitersburg Volunteer Fire Co.’s ladies auxiliary, serving as its president for about eight years until two years ago.
While she remains a member of Antietam and Leitersburg, Grove said her home company is now Western Enterprise. She helps in the kitchen and with bingo and other fundraisers.
With the state firemen’s ladies auxiliary, Grove said she’s served on its Ways and Means Committee for about 20 years. That group helps raise money for the general fund as well as for the Bessie Marshall scholarship fund, named for a late state auxiliary member.
The fund helps injured or sick firefighters in need, she said.
She’s also still involved with the county fire and rescue association’s auxiliary, serving as its secretary.
She’s been going to the county meetings for about 19 years with her husband, retired Leitersburg firefighter Daniel Grove Jr.
It’s a lot of work, she said, but she loves it.