Behind Every Great Man …


Though the Panther Club is definitely a men’s group, the Panther wives are revered, honored and welcomed, and a social bond has naturally formed among them as well.

“You never have to be alone being a Panther wife,” said Ethel Barrish, wife of immediate past president Jim. “Already today, I’ve spoken to two Panther wives, and I’m calling a third” to check about a recently hospitalized family member.

A Panther Club anniversary affair at the Belvedere Hotel, circa 1955. (Photo provided)
A Panther Club anniversary affair at the Belvedere Hotel, circa 1955.
(Photo provided)

Barrish cited sharing holiday meals and vacations with other Panther couples as meaningful to the life she and her husband made after moving to Baltimore from Philadelphia years ago and that even running into other Panther wives and husbands at restaurants or stores and always stopping to chat “is just a warm feeling we get as Panther wives. Panther women have really enriched my life.”

Sue Sher, married to Bernie, has her connection with Panther wives at the mah jongg table among other social activities.

“If it wasn’t for the Panther Club I don’t think I’d be as happy as I am,” she said, “and I know that Bernie adores [the Panthers]. It’s a very big part of his life.”

Each Tuesday afternoon Claire Jacobs plays cards — hand and foot canasta — with five Panther Club wives. She was impressed with the men’s close bond and camaraderie from the beginning of her involvement 55 years ago, when she married David.

“I love supporting this man that I adore,” said Jacobs, “and being the wife of a member has brought me a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction and added to my joy in life.”

She added, “This is a great men’s club. It’s done very well without wives [getting involved] all these years, and I’m not going to start now.”

Many of the wives, such as Barb Bazensky, have dinner together on some Tuesdays when their husbands are meeting. She added that there is a group of snowbirds that travels to Florida for the winter. They meet for a Valentine’s Day lunch with what is jokingly referred to as Panther Club South.

“I just think it’s a great bunch of guys and great bunch of gals,” said Bazenksy, wife of current president Al, “and [the guys] call us the Pantherettes.”

All of the wives spoke of the care and dedication the Panther Club shows when someone becomes ill, whether it’s through visits, calls or delivering soup.

“It’s just a feeling you have being a Panther wife,” said Barrish. “In sickness and health the Panthers are there.”

Even after a member passes away, wives of Panther members are still eligible to attend affairs and are kept abreast of information on all of the members.

Betty Handwerger married Panther Club member Arnold Besser in 1953. He passed away at age 56, and Betty said while he was ill, the members showed a lot of care for her and her husband. Because Betty was still included in the club’s social events, she began attending with Joel Handwerger, her second husband. Joel took such a liking to the group he joined. He has since passed away, but Betty is still invited to attend affairs with her boyfriend, Ed Sless.

“It’s a very wonderful bunch of guys, and they really are all dedicated to each other,” said Handwerger. “I feel like I belong to the club.”

“We always say [the Panther club is] keeping them alive,” said Jacobs, laughing. “It’s good to have such close friends to confide in, laugh with and talk to.”

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