Resident has history of community service

Need a project leader, a donation, or some charity assistance? Contact Leo Slusher, a Franklin community service icon for the past 66 years and last year’s winner of the Pendleton County Chamber of Commerce’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Slusher also has raised more than $51,000 since 2005 for the American Cancer Society with his Relay for Life team, the Eradicators. His team is fighting cancer again in this year’s Relay for Life, which will take place Saturday, July 13 at Pendleton County High School.

Slusher came to Franklin to work as an inspector for the C&A Lumber Co. on Oct. 14, 1946. He met his lifetime partner, Juanita Eye, on a Brandywine dance floor, took her back to her home and married her on Nov. 6, 1948.

While courting young Leo as he made a business trip toward Propst Gap, Juanita Slusher recalled trying to cross the South Branch of the Potomac River on the low-water bridge near Franklin’s Star Hotel.

“I told Leo the water was up, but he insisted we couldn’t get stuck on a bridge. He got stuck, and I wasn’t going to wade out of there – the water was up to my hips. So, he carried me back across the river,” she said, smiling at the gallant gesture that convinced her he was the man for her.

Slusher later worked as a franchiser for a freight line from Franklin to Harrisonburg, as a state road maintenance foreman and as a Nationwide Insurance agent.

But, his main work has always been in community service, mostly as an administrator with the Franklin Loyal Order of the Moose. The club sponsors Halloween, Christmas and Easter egg parties for children; pays for the rental for the library during local blood drives and the electricity for school sports events; heads the community drive for better lights at the school football field, later named The Leo Slusher Field; and delivers home-cooked meals to shut-ins at Christmas.

Slusher always works or contributes to a community, school or student project. He has manned the Sports Boosters’ refreshment stand for the past 47 years.

Slusher’s Relay for Life team, the Eradicators, has won the award for raising the most money for the American Cancer Society every year except for one.

“We lost by $70, but I had forgotten a team member had handed me one last donation right before I turned the money in. I had it in my pocket. When I checked, after the winner was announced, it was $70. We would have at least tied,” he said.

Since 2005, minus years 2006-2008, Slusher’s Eradicators has raised more than $51,000, said Mike Altire, community manager for the American Cancer Society.

“Individually, Leo has raised more than $7,000. Pendleton County’s Relay is one of the highest per capita in the state and even raises more than prosperous surrounding states. Fortunately we have people like Leo, well-known and respected in the community, who give back to the community,” he said.