If my family voted for the place that they both grew up in and remember with great fondness, it is Kutztown, Pennsylvania. It was there that our children grew up, our family thrived and both Carol and I advanced professionally. We have such great memories of the place and its Pennsylvania Dutch ways.
I have pretty much kept track of many of my friends from those times. An acquaintance of mine, Bob H. has been letting me know what has been going on there for a number of years. We also have returned there for funerals. However, last night, Bob asked me for my cell phone number so that he could send me a video. I had no idea what he was going to send.
What came across the ether was a video of my best friend from Kutztown, Donald Buchman, who passed away over 10 years ago giving a speech at Rotary Club making sport of me. Since I had no thought of what Bob was going to send, I was shocked at the video and the appearance of my friend from the past.
It put me in mind of all of the really fun times in “Brigadoon” that I have and will cherish for the rest of my life. My mind raced to paint a picture of all of those who passed my way and had a lasting effect on my life.
Donald was the closest to me and supported me in many of my efforts as school superintendent. He was the mayor and had influence beyond his ceremonial position. There was Don Sharp, an import from Allentown, whose business dealings frosted some old Dutchmen. He became President of the School Board of Kutztown and was instrumental in my getting the job as superintendent.
Gordon Konemann was my friend and sidekick in Rotary. He supported me for President. Kenny Held was the scion of a rather wealthy family whose antics antagonized others and made me hysterical. He once came out from behind the counter of the Airport Diner and chased me around with a large kitchen knife. I thought it was funny, Carol id not.
There was Wilmer Beck, owner of the local feed mill, who instructed me how to have sex after I became 80. That will be coming soon. Luckily, I took notes when Wilmer spoke. There was Joel Weinman, the only other Jew in town who was an optometrist and a wild and crazy guy.
There was Tom Sexton, who taught at the college and broke lots of Rotary rules by taking a tour group to Cuba, when it was not allowed. There was George Y Brubaker and his Happy Dollars at every meeting to help us fund our scholarship program.
There was my favorite Marine, Denton Fenstermacher, whose laugh I can still hear. Fortunately, he is still around with his wife Peg. Denton taught me a bunch about the community and its history. There was Randy Leibensperger and his brother Marlowe. Their activities in Rotary and elsewhere showed a wonderful community spirit. Joyce, Randy’s wife eventually became the President of the School Board. It was Joyce that I had to tell that I was leaving Kutztown.
I can see Jake Sayshen’s face when he tells me that he is going to New York City to collect accounts payable to his shoe factory. I had and still don’t have any idea what he was talking about.
There was Reverend George Shultz, my neighbor, who, along with Frank Snyder ( and the eagle on his chest) interviewed me and invited me into Rotary.
There was the Reverend Bill Bispels, who was a close friend until the end of his tenure as minister. I can’t forget that morning when he asked me to go out to breakfast and told me that he was leaving.
There was Jake Esser, publisher of the Kutztown Patriot and head of the Kutztown Publishing Company, who once sat next to me at a dinner theater and explained the entirety of the King and I as we were watching. There was (Senator ) Sam Smith, an editor at the Patriot and husband of 3rd grade teacher Elaine. Will Gaul and Verna, who lived down the street. Rev. Harry Serio who spend 25 years as a minister in town, and who was always ready for a discussion
There was, and is, J. Richard Wagner, our musician extraordinaire who played the piano as we sang our old time Rotary Songs. There was my neighbor Jim Scott, head of the foundry, who lived across the street and was a tower of strength in the community and in my life.
They are mostly all gone, Don Sharp, Don Buchman, Larry Stratton (President of Kutztown University). Their memories will always be with me. I thank Bob H. for the reminder.