Gracie Mae Haga, a retired Western Electric telephone component assembler who grew up on a farm in Virginia, died of complications from COPD and old age on April 12 at SpiriTrust Lutheran, the village of Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania. She was 96 and lived in Mays Chapel and Dundalk.
Born in Chilhowie, Virginia, she was the second of five children born to Martin Hart, who was a lumberjack, and Bessie Blankenbeckler Hart, a farm housewife.
“His parents had a working farm that provided them with all their needs,” said his son, Gregory S. Haga. “Martin Hart was of English origin and Bessie Blankenbeckler of German origin. They had a hard life working on this farm seven days a week. Their day was from morning to dusk.
He said his mother also worked on the farm when she was not at school.
“My mother and her siblings did a variety of chores, gardening, planting, harvesting, feeding livestock and preparing food, canning just about everything they produced for the winter months and put into storage” , did he declare. “Like many Depression-era people, she quit her formal education in 10th grade to earn money. She held several jobs, including a World War II production plant in Kentucky.
After World War II ended, she met her future husband, James E. Haga, while serving as a waitress at a Chilhowie restaurant.
“She said it was the best job she ever had. She loved interacting with customers,” her son said.
Her husband was a World War II Marine Corps veteran who had served in the South Pacific. They married on May 29, 1948. She and her husband found jobs at a local hosiery factory.
“These mills were located all over the South, now almost extinct,” his son said.
The couple recognized that they needed to move for better employment. In 1956 they moved to Dundalk, where they got good blue-collar jobs. He became a millwright at Bethlehem Steel Sparrows Point and she joined Western Electric Co.’s Point Breeze Works in southeast Baltimore.
She became skilled with the soldering iron and made hand-assembled boards used to make telephone equipment.
“She had a great group of colleagues. She was never racially prejudiced and she worked and partied with a diverse group of friends from Western Electric,” her son said.
After settling in eastern Baltimore County, she and her husband took their family on vacations from New Jersey to Florida and other East Coast locations throughout the marriage.
“She and my dad loved boating and have owned four different boats over the years,” her son said. “They finally bought a house down on Lynch Cove on Bear Creak.”
He said she became self-sufficient during the summer months and celebrated holidays and weekends.
“They traveled across the Chesapeake by boat,” he said. “They made many trips with overnight stays. In 1974 they crossed the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal and arrived in Ocean City.
Ms. Haga often hosted a party for co-workers she met at Western Electric. In 1980, she and her husband retired and she realized a dream.
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“My parents bought a house in Daytona Beach, Florida, two blocks from the beach. Mae loved the beach more than anything, visiting the beach every day when it wasn’t raining. She liked to lie in the sun and always talked to friends.
Another son, Edwin Lee Haga, and his wife Linda also moved to Daytona.
“She was welcoming friends and family with her entertaining manner,” her son James said. “She insisted on taking everyone to the beach and congregating at the good local restaurants in Daytona Beach. She never forgot someone’s birthday with a card and a gift.
In 2013, she and her husband moved back to Maryland due to health issues. They lived in Mays Chapel.
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“My mother had to give up the beach and her grandchildren, but she looked forward to her daily phone calls with her sister and sister-in-law,” her son said.
Survivors include his son Gregory S. Haga of Parkton; one sister, Ruth Epperson of Glennville, Georgia; one brother, Charles Hart of Chilhowie, Virginia; four grandchildren; several great-grandchildren; and a great-great-grandson. Her son, Edwin Lee Haga, died in 2008. Her husband of 73 years died on December 3, 2021.
Services were held Thursday at Lemmon Funeral Home.