Written By Shelly Horn
As Labor Day approaches, we look forward to celebrating the work ethic and the people who believe in it. Everybody is familiar with the usual means of employment. But some Carroll County breadwinners do offbeat work. Not only are they are proud of their unusual jobs, but they all regard their vocations as labors of love. Here is a sampling:
Mathias Monuments, Shop Foreman and Letterer
Dan Long has worked for Mathias Monuments in Westminster since 1958. His sincere personality and sense of humor shine through a set of blue eyes that have seen some aspect of death for almost 50 years.
Long’s parking place at work faces a graveyard. Actually, all the parking places at Mathias Monuments do. Not a real graveyard, but a display of the monuments sold by Mathias.
Behind the company’s front office, and behind the parking lot, lies a green-painted studio that Dan Long has called his workplace for 47 years. He is called a shop foreman or stone letterer, but “artist” more accurately captures his skill. Long modestly denies it.
“It’s not hard. I’ve never had any art lessons or anything,” said Long. “I learned by watching.”
His son, 25, affectionately called “Little Dan,” is also employed at Mathias full time and has worked there in some capacity since he was 14. Little Dan recognizes his father’s artistic freehand.
“I didn’t get that gene,” he said. “That’s why I do the sandblasting and tool work.”
The senior Long delicately carves layouts for the stones. He draws and cuts intricate roses, beautiful mountain scenes – anything a customer requests. He admits that there have been some strange requests over the years, but declined to disclose them.
“Let’s just say – you name it, I’ve put it on stone,” he laughed.
“After all this time, I still love what I do. And let’s face it. In this line of work, there’s always work to do.”
BCRS K-9 Mold Detection Service
Outwardly, they may seem to be unusual business partners, but Steven Yerger and his dog, Bear, are a successful and lucrative team. Their slogan, in fact, could be, “Man’s Best Friend, Mold’s Worst Enemy.”
Yerger is a Certified Mold Remediator. His dog, Bear, is a scent-detection canine certified through the World Mold Detection Dog Organization (WMDDO). Bear locates and points out mold in residences, new construction, and commercial buildings. Yerger confirms and identifies it, then offers remediation services to the customer.
“Most people are aware that dogs can be trained to detect bombs and drugs,” said Yerger. “All they [WMDDO] do is, using ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] principles, switch the scent from C-4 or drugs to specific types of mold.”
“It’s a bonus,” said Yerger, “that we use Humane Society rescued dogs for this training.”
Theirs is no small operation. Yerger and Bear work throughout Central Maryland as well as in the greater Washington,D.C. area. They live in New Windsor where Yerger’s wife, Sandra, answers phones, handles contracts, and performs bookkeeping duties.The Yergers have three children: Rebecca, 20, Hannah, 11, and Jonathan, 10.
A frustrating experience with his youngest child brought Yerger into his latest line of work.
“My son had a chronic runny nose,” said Yerger. “We took him to specialist after specialist with no relief, and finally discovered that he was allergic to a specific type of mold.”
Afterward, as Yerger researched mold and its harmful effects, he uncovered information about scent-detection canines.
“That’s the ticket,” Yerger remembered thinking. “That’s the way to help other people.” Bear’s services were added in February 2004.
Yerger has 25 years’ experience in the construction industry, the last 15 of them in waterproofing. His mold detection services are invaluable to his customers because mold has been identified as a leading cause for chronic sinus infections and recurrent breathing problems.
“People really appreciate us,” Yerger said. “And they know that dogs are honest.”
Acupuncturist and Herbalist
After he discloses his profession, acupuncturist and herbalist Greg Padrick of Westminster’s Center for Healing Arts expects a certain pattern.
“When people find out about my occupation, typically I get one of two responses,” said Padrick. “One group furrows its brow, shakes its head, and makes a noncommittal comment about pincushions or voodoo. The other group responds with general approval and a comment like,Ôooh, my friend does that and it has really helped him a lot.’”
The mixed reactions represent contrasting views of Western and Eastern medicine. Although acupuncture is an ancient Chinese form of healing with proven results, its achievements are often regarded with suspicion in the U.S., because the approaches defy Western cultural norms.
The ancient Chinese believed that there is a universal life energy present in every living creature. They supposed that the energy, which is thought to circulate throughout the body along specific pathways, can sometimes become blocked. Thus, the system is disrupted and pain and illness occur.
According to its practitioners, acupuncture, through stimulation, works to “reprogram” and restore normal functions on the pathways in order to free up energy, thereby removing pain and restoring health.
Personal experience sparked Padrick’s interest in acupuncture, which he has practiced for seven years.
“I watched my uncle suffering from chronic illness for years,” said Padrick.
“He finally got relief with Chinese medicine.”
Padrick finds his profession incredibly rewarding. “I enjoy observing changes in people’s lives, on many levels,” he said, “physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, by just poking a couple of pins into them.”
In addition to being a nationally certified and state-licensed acupuncturist, Padrick holds a B.A. in Comparative Religion from Davidson College in North Carolina. He is also a licentiate of Acupuncture and Diplomate of Chinese Herbal Medicine from the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine in Reading, England. Padrick lives in Westminster with his wife Jennifer and their six-year old daughter.
Tom, Dierdre, and Brandon Crowl
Professional Comedy and Magic Act
Everyone has one – the relative who pesters everyone at family outings with card tricks : “Pick a card, any card.” But imagine that he or she has psychic abilities. And imagine that he or she can correctly pull your card out of a bag of cards- every time. And imagine, further, that the family member is a PIG.
Pam the Psychic Ham–a 70-pound Vietnamese pot-bellied porker named Pam– is a major part of the “Tom Crowl and the Mrs.” Family Comedy and Magic Show. But after all, she’s just a pig and has little seniority. The other members of the troupe, Westminster residents Tom and Dierdre Crowl, have been performing for more than 20 years and their 10-year old son, Cameron, has been a part of the act since he was three.
Tom Crowl became interested in magic as a child. “I was always fascinated,” he said, “by people like David Copperfield. And even more so by Doug Henning.” He believed that he, too, could be a professional magician or stage performer. His parents, longtime employees of the Carroll County Board of Education, disagreed.
“You’re either famous like Copperfield or you’re stuck working birthday parties the rest of your life,” they told Crowl. “Get a real job.” The comments spurred Crowl to work even harder at becoming successful as a stage performer. And he did. He has been performing professionally since 1984.
In 1991, Crowl married Dierdre, who immediately became an integral part of the act, which they named, “Tom Crowl and the Mrs.” Shortly after their wedding, they performed on a cruise ship for three weeks. The show’s name, which has angered some feminists, is sarcastic – evidenced by the show itself.
“For as long as I can remember,” Crowl said, “magicians have had women on the stage in a diminished role. We wanted to totally change all that. She has a primary role.”
Crowl and his son Brandon perform their antics on stage while Dierdre, reminiscent of Cher in the old Sonny & Cher show, innocently tolerates it all.
Bookmobile Head/Library Associate
There is nothing unusual about the occupation of librarian – unless, of course, the library is mobile and has to battle traffic and negotiate tight corners.
Cindy Osborne captains a large blue art-covered bus filled with an impressive selection of books, CDs and DVDs. She makes five to seven runs daily, stopping at numerous after-school programs, daycare centers, and senior centers all over Carroll County.
“The Bookmobile is a mobile library – just a very small branch on wheels,” said Osborne. She has been Carroll County Library’s full-time Bookmobile driver for more than four years and lives in Westminster with her husband Gene, and their 10-year old twin daughters Allison and Amber.
No special license is needed to be a Bookmobile driver, but a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Towson and 10 years’ elementary teaching experience definitely help Osborne. At some stops, she reads books aloud or puts on finger-puppet plays.
“She is my foil and gets the biggest laughs,” said Crowl. “The program couldn’t run without her.”
The show is a unique combination of family comedy and illusion, heavy on the comedy, and the Crowls had a busy summer, performing at county fairs and festivals all over the east coast.
“We’re there to make sure that everyone laughs,” said Crowl. “Our goal is to make sure that everyone has a great time.”
“The very best part of my job is the interaction with the patrons,” Osborne said. “I love working with people and I really enjoy the story time with the children.”
Like most jobs, this one, too, has a downside – heavy traffic and offensive or negligent drivers. Although Osborne is accident-free, she admits that negotiating traffic is often difficult.
“Sometimes people just cut me off or come into my lane as if they don’t see me,” she said. “You’ve seen the Bookmobile – I mean, how could they NOT see me?”
“I also wish that we could get around to each stop more frequently,” Osborne said. “We need more of us.” The Bookmobile stops are currently serviced in a three-week cycle.