Remembering the life of John Lehman
SHEPHERDSTOWN — On July 25, 2018, former Shepherdstown resident and Shepherd University graduate John Richard Lehman passed away from cardiac arrest at Conway Medical Center in Conway, South Carolina.
Although John moved with his wife, Mary, to retire in Conway, South Carolina in 2012, his memory lives on in the hearts of Shepherdstown’s residents.
“People loved John,” Mary said during a phone conversation on Oct. 15. “He was a kind, compassionate, loving person. He was just a good person.”
An easy example of how loved John was, can be found on the Facebook group, “If you’ve ever lived in Shepherdstown, WV then you remember.” Sixty current and former Shepherdstown residents responded to news of John’s death with condolences and memories of him as a friend and teacher/guidance counselor at Shepherdstown Junior High School.
For Mary, when she lost John, she not only lost her husband, but her best friend and former business partner.
“We were an extremely close couple, and I miss him terribly,” Mary said. “He was the kindest, most gentle, loving person I ever had in my whole life.”
In 1975, John joined the staff of Shepherdstown Junior High School, after receiving his masters degree in guidance and counseling from the University of Georgia and working in schools in Boonsboro, Maryland and Baltimore, Maryland. Almost two years after moving to Shepherdstown, he and Mary met for the first time at the school. One of John’s advisees was a foster child whose case Mary, as a social worker, was in charge of.
After John and Mary met, they connected over their similarities — both being liberal, Unitarian, creative, former English majors and independent people. They quickly fell in love; John started designing and building a home on Shepherd Grade Road for them and Mary’s three children from her first marriage; and they married four months after they met.
After their marriage at Trinity Episcopal Church in 1977, the couple continued in their careers, while considering other potential career opportunities. With both of them being interested in owning a small business, they soon found their niche — in publishing. The couple established their first business together, Lehman Media Company, in Charles Town in 1982. In 1991, they started their next publishing venture, The Shepherdstown Chronicle, and after selling it in 2001 to Ogden Publishing, founded The Shepherdstown Observer in 2004. They sold The Shepherdstown Observer now known as The Observer — before they moved away to South Carolina.
“We had common interests. I was a good idea person, but John was a hard worker. We thought alike, we finished sentences for one another,” Mary said. “He liked creating, and was more of an artist than I was — he did some beautiful ads. He did all the graphics for the paper itself. And we just worked well together.”
According to Mary, although John suffered from Atrial Fibrillation and a weak heart after contracting rheumatic fever as a child, his death was unexpected. Learning to navigate life without him is a challenge she’s currently working through, with the help of her children — her two daughters live in Virginia, and her son lives in Illinois.
“John just took care of me,” Mary said. “I have severe arthritis. I’m still mobile, but in the last six years, he did everything. He did wash, he cooked, he loaded and unloaded the dishwasher, he changed the sheets, he did the lawn work. I didn’t even know how to run the dish washer, because he died so suddenly.
“My children have been very supportive, and I may move back to the general area, but I’m not making any major decisions for a year,” Mary said, mentioning she has not only appreciated the help of her family, but also of her friends, during the months since John’s passing.
“I have wonderful friends,” Mary said.