Bill and Agnes Litman loved to travel.
They’ve been all over the United States and Canada, and to the Bahamas and Australia.
They went camping when their daughter, Cheryl, was little. After they bought an airplane, they’d fly to Florida or the Carolinas or Tennessee to play golf and go sightseeing.
Yet, they never wanted to live anywhere else but Brookfield.
“I like it,” Bill said. “It’s just a small town.”
“Friendly people,” Agnes added. “Easy to get around.”
While Bill has lived in Brookfield practically all his life, Agnes is a transplant. She was raised in Farrell, but knew Masury intimately because her “baba,” Agnes Kuzel, lived on Elm Street.
“When I would come to visit my baba in Masury, I’d always say, ‘Oh, it’s so beautiful here. All the trees. Everything’s so pretty. I live in Farrell, and it just doesn’t have much,’” Agnes said. “Never thought that I would end up in Masury, then in Brookfield.”
Bill was born in 1928 in Pittsburgh, but was raised on Bedford Road in Masury, near where Route 62 is today. His father abandoned the family – Litman never met him – and his mother, Dorothy Dawson, took a job cooking and babysitting for Guy Litman, who was a widower with three kids. They ended up marrying around the time Bill was born.
The house on Bedford Road – which was dirt until the Works Progress Administration paved it during the Great Depression – had a pump for well water, a three-seat outhouse, a coal stove for heat and a great hill in the back for sled riding. Bill remembered the rent was $15 a month – the family was in arrears about two years – and they would get free groceries from a local store.
Bill’s stepfather had a Maxwell car in the garage, but it didn’t run, and Bill doesn’t remember how his stepfather got to Cleveland, where he worked as a machinist during the week, or back home again on weekends.
“When we were kids, there were a lot of vacant lots around Masury,” Bill said. “We always played baseball or mushball or softball and football. We’d pick a field and people would go there and we’d play.”
One of those fields was near where Agnes’s grandmother lived.
“I knew her,” Bill said of the girl, four years younger than him, who later became his wife. “Her cousins and some of the people that lived along Elm Street used to go over in there in the field and play ball. She would come over and watch. I would be down there watching them play, because they were big guys. I knew all her uncles, because they were my age or a little older.”
Bill delivered papers as a boy – he always walked because his stepfather considered a bicycle to be too dangerous – and then worked as an usher at the Columbia Theatre in Sharon. When World War II broke out, Bill was allowed to leave high school early to work at GATX, which was building landing craft and tanks.
He later went into the Army and served two years, one of them stationed in Tokyo as a supply sergeant.
Bill has had a lot of jobs over the years: steelworker at U.S. Steel; self-employed truck driver; co-owner of a floor covering business in Sharon; professional drummer for the Charley James Band, Lou Paoletta and other acts for more than 30 years; and car salesman.
“He did so many things, it’s hard to keep track of them, really,” said Agnes, 86. “He just went from one thing to another. He couldn’t find his niche, is what the problem was, I think.”
Agnes came along in the middle of the niche-finding time.
“His brother, Ralph, was going to YSU,” she said. “My friend from Farrell was going to YSU. They started dating, and she said to me one time, ‘You ought to go out on a double date with us.’ She told me who he was. I said, ‘I think I know him from way back.’ We went out on a double date, and, after that, we just started dating.”
They moved into an apartment in Masury upon marriage, suffering through some very lean years.
“We started out poor,” Bill said, recalling that payments on his truck often sopped up his pay. “Very poor.”
Things started to change when he got into the insurance business, something he learned about while selling cars. He worked out of his home on Route 7, eventually opening a storefront in a building that had been a store and gas station at Route 7 and Stewart Sharon Road. His nephew, Thomas J. Litman, owns the business now.
“I think it was the money,” Agnes said of why Bill ended up staying in the insurance business. “It was a nice business. He started from scratch and kept growing.”
Bill is a charter member of the Brookfield Rotary Club, which formed in 1977. Highlights of his Rotary service include creating a “land lab” for school students on the old radar base property on Route 7; turning the old police station into the first Brookfield library; building the first gazebo on the green; and hosting exchange students and young professionals who came to study in the United States.
“We used to have 25 members,” Bill said. “Now, we have six or seven. It’s hard to get anybody who wants to join.”
While times have changed, Bill and Agnes, married 64 years, remain a strong team.
“It’s been fun,” Agnes said. “I’ve been happily married.”
When Bill didn’t respond to her comment right away – he was looking through his phone gallery for a picture from their wedding day – Agnes feigned indignation.
“I’ll get him later,” she said.
World travelers find a home in Brookfield
Bill and Agnes Litman loved to travel.