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Park Volunteer Spent Childhood on Farm

Jerry Maravetz knows his way around a farm. He was born on a farm in Iowa; and when they lost the farm during the Depression, the family lived on someone else's farm.

So when, two years ago, Maravetz saw an advertisement from Frying Pan Park seeking volunteers, he thought he'd give it a try.

"I had been coming out here with my grandchildren," said Maravetz, after completing the day's last hay ride. "Now, I come out on my own time. I spend about 150 hours per year, mostly in the summer, here."

The Vienna resident started out fixing the old farm equipment laying useless in a shed. Once a week he also drives the tractor for the hay rides.

For his dedication to preserving farm life, Maravetz was awarded the 2002 Ed Gordon Adult Award, which honors the top volunteer at the park. In addition, he was also recognized by the Fairfax County Park Authority at a reception for outstanding volunteers, in recognition of National Volunteer Week, April 27-May 3.

"HIS ABILITY to fix old machinery brought him to Frying Pan Park to help the park restore its many pieces of old farm equipment," said Sherry Bizette, Frying Pan Park, volunteer and programs coordinator. "Thanks to Jerry's incredible work, old equipment is not just sitting in a shed. The public can now see how it was used in the field to help farmers plant or harvest crops."

Maravetz said fixing the old machinery came naturally to him. Many of the pieces are the same as the ones his father used on the family farm. Keeping the pieces in tip-top shape; however, can be another story. Because of the age of some of the machines, replacement parts are hard to find.

"My latest project is a corn binder, which cuts stalks of corn and bundles them. There was a chain missing. It was a very unique chain," Maravetz said. "I happen to be in Missouri and saw the same machine in a barn. The farmer told me I could have the chain and I brought it back."

He said that experience is typical of what it was really like growing up on the Iowa farm, where there wasn't a store down the street carrying replacement parts or a mechanic who made house calls.

"If anything broke, you had to fix it," Maravetz said.

Many of the machines Maravetz fixes are for displays; however, others such as the hay loader, dump rack and manure spreader are actually used on the farm. He said the employees at the farm give him the freedom to set his own hours and choose which projects to work on. He said he enjoys the solitude of working in the equipment shed, but also likes it when children pay a visit. Once a week, Maravetz drives one of the tractors that pulls the hay ride wagon. He prefers the red tractor because it is more than 50-years-old.

"I explain what the buildings are. This used to be a diary farm. I try to explain what it was like to raise your own food because we didn't have a Safeway on the corner," Maravetz said. "I enjoy talking to the children. For example, the school house, which is used for a preschool now, was built in 1911 and has four rooms. I tell them it has three rooms more than I had when I went to school. They look at me like I'm crazy."

MARAVETZ DOES not only volunteer at the farm. Each Monday he volunteers to count the collection money and make the deposit for his church, St. Mark's Catholic Church in Vienna.

Before beginning a volunteer career, Maravetz spent 22 years as a Navy cryptologist with the Command Naval Security Group. After retiring, he became a civilian employee, finally retiring as the security group's deputy director.

He and his wife, who died three years ago from cancer, moved to Vienna when the Navy stationed Maravetz in the area and the family has never left.

"My son and daughter were still in high school and they wanted to stay," Maravetz said.

As for his work on the farm, Maravetz said he plans on staying for now.

"I didn't think I'd still be here. When I saw the ad, I didn't even knew if I'd even start," Maravetz said. "I'll keep coming out until I don't feel like it. As long as I have the interest, I'll keep coming."