While a lot of people find a train’s whistle to be a mournful sound,
Timmy Bentz of Graceham, MD says hearing one always makes him smile.
That’s because a train whistle reminds Timmy of his Dad, Charles
W. Bentz, who was cared for by Hospice in the family’s home until
his death in 2012. A shared love of trains was a strong bond between father and son, and
Timmy has many happy memories of riding the rails, reading train books
and watching railroad videos with his late father. The two also amassed
a large collection of train memorabilia together—much of which dates
back to the time when Timmy’s grandfather, Harry C. Groshon, worked
for the Western Maryland Railroad.
Forty-seven-year-old Timmy, who has been developmentally disabled since
birth, is well known and loved in the Thurmont area. At the Thurmont Weis Markets where he works, local families—especially
those with children—enjoy chatting with him, as he always has a
friendly greeting and a kind word. Timmy’s sister, Laura Harbaugh,
says that the care Hospice gave to her Dad and the family at the end of
his life was helpful to all of them, but the emotional support that the
social worker gave Timmy was especially meaningful. “We knew Dad’s
passing would leave a big hole in all our lives,” she says.
“But we were all really concerned about Timmy. We hoped he could find a way to express his grief, since he
sometimes has trouble finding the words he needs.”
Several months after Charles died, Timmy did find a way to express his
grief and honor his father’s memory in a way that was uniquely his.
With his entire family’s help, Timmy converted an upstairs bedroom
to a Memorial Room showcasing the love of trains he had shared with his
Timmy smiles broadly when he talks about how his entire family came together
to help him with his project. His niece and nephew, 5-year-old Trey and
3-year-old Chloe washed the walls, and his brother-in-law, Rodney, installed
shelves and laid the hardwood floor Timmy had chosen “to look just
like a train station.”
His sisters painted and made curtains, the entire family working together
until the Memorial Room looked exactly the way Timmy had envisioned. In
the room, Timmy has put the miniature train layout depicting the town
of Graceham that he and his father had worked on together since the 1990s—complete with:
- post office
- general store
- town office the Bentz family home
- and a tiny figurine of Timmy himself.
Their books and videos are organized neatly on the shelves, and Timmy has
labelled the rest of the railroad memorabilia carefully using a computer
program. When the tribute room was completed last August, Timmy and his
family hosted a well-attended ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Bentz family
home. Timmy offered his guests tours of the Memorial Room, and shared
a scrapbook he had created using photos he took throughout the project.
This scrapbook was later awarded first place in its category in the Thurmont
“Me and Dad were like this,” says Timmy, lacing the fingers
of his hands tightly together. “I have a lot of friends, but he
was probably my best one. I miss him a lot, but I’m glad I have
our Train Room. When I go in there, I always feel quiet and peaceful,
And that makes my heart feel good."