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Description: Winter That Almost Wasn't? In mid-January, with only a dusting of snow on the banks surrounding the still unfrozen lake, many began to wonder if winter would every really get here. Less than a week later, however, a brief but statement-making snowstorm removed lingering doubts. Although the winter of 2012 may turn out to be "Winter Lite," the quiet time that some regard as Mt. Gretna's most picturesque season has indeed arrived.

Who needs Paris?

In Mt. Gretna, Romance Abounds    

In Mt. Gretna in the midst of winter when not much happens, putting together a community newsletter seems akin to what we suppose must be like stitching a patchwork quilt: With persistence and a little bit of luck, after a while the random bits and pieces come together in what one hopes will be a pattern.
First came those youngsters, trekking early last month through the Chautauqua grounds on a scavenger hunt. They had on their list of things to find "the Mt. Gretna museum." We directed them to the historical society, right up the street. Then they wanted to know, "Where's the
Valentine Cottage?"
As it happened,
Madelaine Gray, the photographer, had only days before sent us a picture of the sign outside that cottage, one she hoped might be useful as we assembled our February issue. We 


Before the name,

a birthday 

then talked with the cottage owners, Victor Massad and Joann Tucker, who are college professors at Kutztown and Shippensburg universities, respectively. Victor's specialty is marketing, and he had applied his talents in making the rental cottage more appealing to couples who wanted a romantic getaway in the Campmeeting. Victor and Joanne painted the cottage red and white, added shutters with heart-shaped cutouts and furnished the interior with cupid-themed decor found on eBay. Yet it wasn't until after they'd added all those touches that they discovered the previous owner, a woman who lived there until she died in her 80s, may have cast the most lingering inspiration of all: She had been born on Valentine's Day.
Hmmm. Was there a storyline developing here? A scavenger hunt for a "Valentine Cottage," a photo that suddenly arrived in the mail, a coincidental birthday? Editors of newsletters in small towns must seize upon such bits as they tumble from the sky. 


Mt. Gretna sight: Hand- holders everywhere. 

Then came an invitation from Audrey Manspeaker (inset left, with fiance Lee), a favorite Governor Dick Park tour guide, who weaves enchanting spells when she introduces youngsters to the creatures who live in the forest.
Would we like to have pictures and a narrative of the wedding she had planned atop the
Governor Dick Tower?
With our February issue now only days away, her offer in mid-January seemed like the gift of an angel.
Suddenly, it was clear: A Valentine's Day theme. Why not?
After all, the day holds a special place in the traditions of Mt. Gretna, where many of our readers first met, fell in love and married their mates. Hand-holding couples abound here, even in winter (see "Proposal Made in a Tree," below). And in summer, Mt. Gretna's towering pines, moonlit nights and canoes on the lake become essential elements in a century-old mixture tailor made for romance.

As a beacon to writers, artists, musicians, poets and photographers, Mt. Gretna is a place that hearts find first and the arts soon follow. A treasure trove of memories: Perhaps that's what the author of a first novel had in mind when she wrote "The Buried Treasure of Mt. Gretna." That author is, of course, the longtime summer resident and now frequent visitor from Maryland whose name is none other than Charlotte Valentine.
February 14th? It's one of those times -- not really a holiday -- that become welcome respites from cares of a busy and often chaotic world. A time when we stop to reflect on what's most important to us, and usually that comes down to the people and surroundings that add most to our lives. Such qualities are integral to Mt. Gretna, adding a dimension that others sometimes miss. That's why we suppose if there weren't already such an occasion in 1892, when founder Robert H. Coleman acted on his dream, Mt. Gretna --or someplace like it -- is where they'd have invented Valentine's Day in the first place. 



Things to do, places to go 

to celebrate Valentine's Day

What's better than a moonlit hike on the trails of Governor Dick Park?  How about hot chocolate, cookies and sitting by a warm fire inside the lodge after you return?  Description:

 Description: starts at the Nature Center along Pinch Road at 7 pm, Friday, Feb. 10. (That's just two days ahead of the next full moon,) To register, email or call 964-3808. Be sure to leave your name and phone number in case of a cancellation, advises coordinator Janie Gockley. 

Mt. Gretna Playhouse stars Scott Wakefield and Kathryn Kendall return for the second in what seems on its way to become an annual Valentine weekend series, "Love ...'Round the Piano," Description:

to benefit Gretna Theatre.

Broadway actor Wakefield appeared here recently in "The Will Rogers Follies" and was also seen a few years ago in the popular hit, "Pump Boys and Dinettes." Kendall starred in Mt. Gretna productions of "Mame" and "Hello, Dolly!" and has just finished a run of "Gypsy."

They return for a dinner-cabaret of love songs at the Lantern Lodge in Myerstown Saturday, Feb. 11 at 6:30 pm and Sunday, Feb. 12 at 1 pm. The $48 tickets include dinner (tip included) and the show. Call 964-3627 or  order online.


Tuesday, February 14 

Valentine's Day Dinners

At Le Sorelle, 6:30 seating (Reservation required by Feb. 11), take your choice: Baked  


Le Sorelle photo

Salmon, Chicken Saltimbocca, Boneless Pork Chop or Roasted Vegetable Linguine with vegetable and scrumptious dessert options, like the strawberry confection at right.

Click here to see full menu online (


At Tony's Mining Company in Cornwall, owner Jean Kotkas says they'll create their special Valentine's Day menu around one that's similar to the restaurant's popular New Year's Eve fare, which attracts capacity crowds.

Click here to view Tony's offerings online. (


And The Timbers plans a choice of Duck a la Orange, Crab Stuffed Shrimp, Brandied Chicken Portabella or Broiled Haddock Provencal Valentine's Weekend specials on both Friday and Saturday. Pianist Andy Roberts will perform for Valentine's Day diners.

To see menu online, click here. (


A Marriage Made in the Park

Description: Audrey Wells

Editor's Note: Ever since 2007, Governor Dick Park staffer Audrey Manspeaker has been weaving a magic spell for youngsters. Helping them discover birds, tadpoles and other assorted creatures that dwell in the forest, she has, in fact, entranced visitors of all ages, including adults with a sense of childlike wonder, such as Lee Wells, whom she married last month.      

Standing stalwartly against the threat I felt he was, I let him know I didn't appreciate being addressed as "Beautiful." He would reply with a wry, "Mzzzzzzz. Manspeaker."

Thus began his two-year conquest for my affections.

He is Lee Wells, 59, and I am now Audrey Wells, 51. I didn't like this guy who came on the walks I was leading aDescription: the Park, who pointed out that he was a "fun guy" when I spoke about fungi, who walked with a saunter I mistook as cocky and too confident.

I asked Janie Gockley, the office manager, to leave my name out of the advertising for these walks so that he wouldn't come along. I would spy him strolling in on the Center's sidewalk and inwardly groan. He tried too hard to be funny.

In 2008, he asked me to dinner and, after I told him "No," claims I almost drove over his foot to speed out of the Park and get away. I really did have something to do.    

Perhaps thinking of his foot, it took him a year to ask me again. And by the following September, I entertained the idea that there just might be something to like about him after all.

Our first "date" was a 9-mile hike in 2009 to Pulpit Rock and the Pinnacle in Hamburg.

We both love the woods and walking, identifying wildflowers and birdDescription: and insects and trees, just being outdoors. And hike we did, from the Appalachian Trail to the trails at Jim Thorpe, Dehart Reservoir and throughout Cumberland County..      

When he officially asked me to marry him last November on the heights of the Pinnacle, we decided that Governor Dick Park would be the place where we would signify our love and commitment.

Lee had introduced himself to me at the Tower, on one of our November Nocturnes, and we agreed that would be where we would be married. Joe Shay, the gracious mayor of Mt. Gretna, climbed to the top, and in the dead of winter performed our very private ceremony.   

Usually it is at least breezy on the Tower, but on January 20, 2012 our prayers were answered. The wind was still, the sun had a brilliant blue sky all to itself, and the day was glorious. Janie and the Park's other staff member, Diana Sprucebank (a Mt. Gretna resident) were present. In what took just a few minutes, the Mayor performed the ceremony, and pronounced us man and wife -- 66 feet above the Park that had brought us together.  

Wedding photos: Diana Sprucebank



A Proposal Made in a Tree

Bryan Weaver, 35, owner of Climb High Tree Service, knows where all the tall trees are in Mt. Gretna. He's been up iDescription: most of them, and his trucks are a familiar sight here. Julie Noll, 28, is an agricultural specialist at the Dauphin County Conservation District. Both are Penn State graduates. Ever since they met on and began dating last April, Julie has wanted Bryan to teach her how to climb a tree.Description:

Last Saturday, he did.

They drove out to Mt. Gretna Jan. 28 to a parking area where the Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail spur connects at Timber Road, and Bryan pointed out a big Eastern Pine tree. "That looks like a good one," he said.

Julie agreed, outfitted herself in the gear Bryan had brought along, and began to climb. When they got to a spot nearly 75 ft. up overlooking Soldiers Field, they had a good view of Mt. Gretna, with the sun setting over a mountain ridge, adding a late afternoon glow to the lake. Climbing a little higher, Julie came upon question and answer signs.

Guess which answer Julie chose? They'll be married this spring, probably before Memorial Day.




Mt. Gretna Heights resident Rosemary Milgate, on a sightseeing train in Arizona, marveled at the scenery Description: said, to no one in particular, "This sure doesn't look like Pennsylvania."

"You're from Pennsylvania?" asked a man in a big hat, standing nearby. Now retired, he was the official tour guide of the Verde Canyon Railroad, Cottonwood, Ariz.

"Yes, I am" answered the former Lebanon High School English teacher.

"What part of Pennsylvania," he asked.

"Oh, a little town you probably never heard of. Mt. Gretna."

"I used to live there," said the astonished guide. "Where in Mt. Gretna?"

"On Birch Avenue," Rosemary replied.

"I lived on Birch Avenue," said Don Gibble, now flabbergasted. Yet it didn't take either of them long to realize that Gibble had lived in the house that Rosemary Milgate and her late husband Gary bought from him in 1972. Until that moment, on a train rumbling through the Arizona desert, they hadn't crossed paths in almost 40 years.

More than 100 people turned out Jan. 29 for Morris Greiner's presentation, "Old Mt. Gretna Through the Eyes of a Postcard Photographer," sponsored by the Mt. Gretna Area Historical Society. Greiner, who grew up in Mt. Gretna, displayed to the standing-room-only audience cards from his collection, believed to be among the most complete ever assembled by a single collector.     


Moving day for the Applegates. After 35 years at their Valley Road home in Timber Hills, Shelby and Description: moved last month to a new home they've just built in Chester County, to be closer to two of their two grown children.

Howard, professor emeritus of History and American Studies at Lebanon Valley College, may be best known to Mt. Gretnans for his (usually standing room only) book reviews in the Chautauqua Summer Programs series.

Shelby, an accomplished artist, was among the co-founders of the popular Art Studio Tour, which now attracts visitors from throughout three counties. She has also been a frequent exhibitor at the Mt. Gretna Art Show and galleries throughout the Northeast. She loves the sunrises and sunsets from their new home, where she intends to keep painting.

First surprise: Their next-door neighbor turns out to be a woman who, now an attorney, was once a star pupil in Howard's LVC history class. Their new address: 125 Whitehorse Dr., Honeybrook, PA 19344.



Visitors to Mt. Gretna Lake and Beach this summer will notice that something's been added to the landscape along Lake View Drive. "It's part of 'going green,' said Eastern Enterprises official Phil Schneider, commenting on Mt. Gretna's first commercial solar panel installation. The units should help reduce energy bills by converting the sun's rays into electrical power.Description:

Construction on the tiltable ground-mounted solar photovoltaic panels started last December, and technicians put finishing touches on the project last month. An electrician overseeing work at the site estimated that the panels could pay for themselves with energy savings in 10 years.  
The installation was handled by
Energy Systems & Installation Corp. of Jonestown, a firm that has also done work locally for Hershey Chocolate World, Hershey Technical Center, and Country Meadows Retirement Communities.  



"Like a really big, really mad mama vulture"
A new (and quieter) way to scatter the birds? 

Ever since the first scarecrow, mankind has searched for strategies to outsmart airborne creatures.
In Mt. Gretna, turkey vultures have seemed smartest of all. They're large, persistent and have long lives -- with memories to match. They favor coming back each year to the spots they knew as youngsters. 
Although the USDA's experts recommend aerial bombardments to shoo them to less populated spots, the noise often bothers pets and people, especially writers and others with solitary pursuits


Scott Adams shows how he scatters vultures: Open two heavy black plastic trash bags, snap your arms up and down like flapping wings.   "Make the bags pop and rustle." says neighbor Bill Gifford. "It will clear the trees in seconds."    Tom Mayer photo.

that require huge quantities of quiet concentration.
Everybody knows that, of course, especially volunteer coordinator Max Hunsicker, who implores his team to keep noise to a minimum and fire aerial explosives only at dusk, before vultures settle into the trees. Unfortunately, he has no control over those not a part of his group. So the unwanted, and usually unproductive, noise continues.

Now comes Scott Adams, who thinks he may have a solution -- one he discovered by accident.  While preparing to dispose the garbage late one afternoon, Scott shook out a couple of heavy plastic trash can liners.

All of a sudden, whoosh! Dozens of vultures roosting in the trees over his Chautauqua cottage took off.

Bill Gifford*, a next-door neighbor and professional writer, says the noise must sound like a "really big, really mad mama vulture swooping in."

Whatever it was, it worked, says Scott.

He intends to keep on using the low-tech solution as an alternate to the bird bangers.

Does it have a chance of success?
Max is doubtful but nevertheless open to new ideas. Meanwhile, he could also use more volunteers. If you can spare a few minutes each day at dusk, from November to March, he'd love to hear from you at
: Adventure writer Bill Gifford's latest
article on Lance Armstrong and Livestrong, the disease-fighting charity Armstrong founded during his recovery from testicular cancer in 1997, appears in the Jan. 5, 2012 issue of Outside Magazine.  




6 Years after it began, the long odyssey to a spot for the Campmeeting on the National Park Service listing of historic places should take a big step forward this month. That's when the Pennslvania Historic Preservation Bureau expects to respond to the application. "They've warned me that there may still be many questions yet to answer," says coordinator Tom Meredith, "but they don't see any serious problems." Harrisburg's green light is a key step on the way to NPS approval. Tom says the request includes 26 pages of text, 26 original photos by Madelaine Gray, descriptions of 234 buildings, six maps and eight pages of NPS forms.    

$525 From Dog Biscuits and Christmas chocolates, sold by Campmeeting resident Pat Allwein to help finance a trip with her daughter Tanya Igou, a missionary, to the Village of Hope in Gulu, Uganda.  The village is a community for children who have been abducted and forced into becoming soldiers if they are boys,


... helping children who need help 

child mothers if they are girls.


Tanya: woman with a cause ... 

"I still have a few bags of dog biscuits in my freezer, and I'll make some more if anyone asks," says Pat, winner of the Women's 60 and over class in last year's Mt. Gretna Triathlon.
Tanya, who chronicles daily challenges of Uganda on her
blog, has been working at the Village of Hope since 2009. This year, Pat will join her, so they plan several more fundraisers: A "Rice and Beans Week" for members of a team who will each contribute $40 or more for the experience of living one week on a diet of oatmeal for breakfast and rice and beans for lunch and supper. As Easter draws near, they'll make peanut butter eggs, a venture that annually produces "a nice sum of money," says Pat. "It's a lot of work, but many hands make it fun. Plus, they're really good."

  The sum contributed over the past three years to Mt. Gretna's Fire Company by those Monday and Thursday duplicate bridge players. Want to join them? Bring a partner and your lunch to the fire hall at 10 a.m. Snacks and drinks provided. The fun starts at 10 a.m. Fee: $3, which goes to the firefighters. Laura Feather has details: 964-3607.

$5,880  Matching funds donated to date toward refurbishment of the fire company's aging kitchen. An anonymous benefactor offers $15,000 to update the facility, now a hub around which community gatherings take place (like last month's wildly successful Italian Night Dinner, which netted $2,535, despite the season's first big snowstorm). Far-flung readers who want to help: Send contributions, earmarked "Kitchen," to: Mt. Gretna Fire Company, P.O. Box 177, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064.



At the Winterites this month:

A Call to Action, Certified Organics and a Surprise 

With ties to Mt. Gretna that go back nearly a century and a great uncle who once owned The Hideaway (formerly The Stober House), this former New York City-based marketing executive is, as you might guess, no ordinary farmer.

Phil Stober, whose family settled the Mt. Gretna community of Stoberdale in the 1920s, is on a mission:


A farmer on a mission

He and his wife Barbara have launched Bare Foot Organics at Greystone Farm

in Lebanon to grow quality produce, practice state-of-the-art animal husbandry, and sound the call for sustainable and organic farming practices.

It's a tall order, but one he'll cover at this month's meeting of the Winterites, Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 1 pm at the fire hall.

Description:"Agriculture has undergone profound changes in the past decade," says Stober. "The costs to our society of farming's status quo can no longer be overlooked: physical illness brought on by tainted food, environmental degradation caused by mass market practices, and over-reliance on fossil fuel-based fertilizers. Farming, as practiced in the U.S. over the past 50 years, is unsustainable," he says.

Best news of all: Stober's website announces that he'll introduce a small farmer's market this summer in Mt. Gretna, located in the parking lot outside La Cigale, along Route 117.

The website, a centerpiece for his burgeoning 130-member CSA program that spreads from Lebanon to Philadelphia and New York City, says CSA activities here will begin June 13 and continue through October.

Barefoot Organics will also serve a farmer's market on Manhattan's Upper West Side as well as a growing number of restaurants in Pennsylvania and New York City.

Winterite meetings, held September through April, are open to all in Mt. Gretna -- guys, too. For details, call Donna Kaplan, 964-2174, or email







Keep This Number Handy:

When power outages occur, call Met-Ed immediately: 


Met-Ed gives top priority to outages affecting the greatest numbers of people. Your call helps pinpoint the scope of an outage and may also speed repair crews to Mt. Gretna.     

Make the call even though your neighbors have also reported the outage. Squeaky wheels? They sometimes get oiled first.     

During extreme hot or cold weather, the Mt. Gretna Fire Company provides emergency shelter in power outages lasting more than three hours. Bring medications and medical equipment; a sleeping bag or blanket and pillows; food for yourself and family members; books, games and other materials to help pass the time and, if the stay is likely to be for several days, a change of clothes. Sorry, no pets.  



Garden parties, wintertime dinners and more.

Sign Up Here to Meet Your Neighbors in Timber Hills 

The hills are alive with the sound of music? It sure seems that way these days in Timber Hills, where music, dinners, plans for a big garage sale and maybe a party on St. Patrick's Day are on the tip of everyone's tongue after last month's big gathering.
Folks from Timber and Valley roads, Timber Cove and Timber Lane filled the entire downstairs room at the Timbers Jan. 20, with friends around every table, says Valley Road resident Evelyn Koppel. Now other meet-the-neighbors events are
Description: in the works.

Patsy Oburn (inset, left) invites everyone who's interested to send their name, street and email address to her at Names will go on an email list for notices about upcoming community-wide events.  

"Last month's get-together was wonderful," says Evelyn. "Patsy found great ways to get everyone talking and visiting. Folks were able to not only catch up with each other but also meet neighbors they hadn't met before," she said.



If you thought those R.A.D. (Rape/Aggression/Defense) classes for women weren't popular, here's surpDescription: news: The next classes scheduled Mar. 13-26 haven't been advertised yet but they're already half-filled, says police chief Bruce Harris.
This self defense program protects against potential and actual assaults.
Cornwall Police Department officers Candace Miller and David Troxell join staffer Stephanie Burris to teach the 16-hour course. All are certified R.A.D. instructors.  The course will be taught at the Training and Community Center, Philhaven starting March 13. For details, contact Stephanie at the Cornwall Borough Police Department, 274-2071 or email






Updates & Stuff to 

Post on

The Fridge








Description: Courtesy: Le Sorelle

Le Sorelle photo






















Sunday, February 5

Souperbowl Sunday Luncheon  After the 10 am church service, come downstairs to enjoy good soup and fellowship (around 11:30) before the big game. All that's required is your presence and a can or soup or monetary donation for the local food pantry. At Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church, Campmeeting.

Superbowl Specials  When it comes to pizza, nobody does it better, especially for the big game tonight. Damien, Rose and the crew will be there, with smiles, specials and Italian delicacies to make the occasion memorable. Mt. Gretna Pizzeria, 964-1853. Take out or eat in, by the big screens.


Friday, February 10


Moonlit Walk  On Governor Dick trails. See "Things to do ... on Valentine's weekend..." (Above)

Saturday, February 11 (and Sunday, Feb. 12)

Love Round the Piano  (See story above.)

Tuesday, February 14


See Valentine's Day Dinners listings at area restaurants (above).

Wednesday, February 15

Special meeting of South Londonderry Township Supervisors (for residents of Timber Hills, Timber Bridge and Conewago Hill) at The Timbers Restaurant, 7 pm

Thursday, February 16 

10-Year Land Use Forum involving areas surrounding Mt. Gretna. Starting 6 pm at South Lebanon Elementary School, 1825 S. Fifth St., Lebanon. 

Saturday, February 18

The Great Backyard Bird Count   Bring your binoculars and join Audrey Wells at the Governor Dick Nature Center to tally the birds. Your totals will go to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, part of their citizen scientist project. Register at or call 964-3808; leave your name and number.


Intersections The first in a four-concert series that explores the ways classical music and the dance have melded into 'must-see' effect over the centuries. At Gretna Music's winter venue. 7:30 pm. Check details online.


Wednesday, February 22


The Gathering Place Luncheon   Come meet friends, new and old, in this increasingly popular monthly event for everyone in Mt. Gretna, noon. At Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church, Campmeting.

Ash Wednesday Service.  Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church, 7 pm. Speaker: Pastor Jim Heath of Cornwall UMC. It's the first in a Lenten Mid-Week Series to be held through April 6 at area churches.

Sunday, February 26  

Confirmation Classes begin for all children 12 and older, at 6:30 pm, Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church.

Don't forget: Check Mt. Gretna's new year-round online calendar. for events coming up in the year ahead. Send listings for both the Summer Calendar and the new online version to Jennifer Veser Besse ( She'll see that events taking place this summer reach the Summer Calendar's editors as well.


Jack Forney (1912-2012)

Description: Mt. Gretna visitor Jack Forney, who was the brother of the late Betsy Brown, a long-time Chautauqua resident, died in Illinois Jan. 16. He would have been 100 in September. Still active in real estate in the region around Libertyville, Ill., he loved to come to Mt. Gretna and the Brown Avenue cottage, "The Mary Lee," which his sister had named in honor of their mother. Betsy Brown died in 2003 at the age of 85. 



Other newsletters of interest:

Mt. Gretna Updates -- Issued as warranted to alert local residents to such matters as temporary road closings, utility repairs, shelter advisories for adverse weather and other conditions affecting people who live in the seven neighborhoods served by the Mt. Gretna post office. Send an e-mail request, with "LOCAL UPDATES" in subject line, to

This Week in Mt. Gretna -- Issued during summer months; a week-by-week listing of local events, sent by e-mail on request. To add your name to the mailing list, 

Mt. Gretna Arts Council Newsletter -- Now available only online (no mailed copies). Updated to include news concerning groups dedicated to the arts in Mt. Gretna, Calendar of Events, Summer Premier and Arts Council scholarships.Click here 

Gretna Music bulletins -- E-mailed updates on concert events, schedule changes and other news. See "Join Our Mailing List" at 

Mt. Gretna Area Historical Society Newsletter -- Online at 

Mt. Gretna Bible Festival Newsletter -- Mailed in the spring and fall without charge. Send request to Bible Festival, P.O. Box 408, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064.

Governor Dick Park Newsletter -- Online and by e-mail. See 

Cornwall Police Department E-Mail Bulletins -- issued as warranted to update residents on events of community interest, including crime alerts. To add your name to the mailing list, e-mail request to 

South Londonderry Township Newsletter -- of primary interest to Mt. Gretnans in Timber Hills, Conewago Hill and Timber Bridge; online at 

Campmeeting Newsletter -- Available online and mailed to residents.

Mt. Gretna Heights Newsletter -- e-mailed to Heights residents. Address inquiries to Michelle Shay,