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The Mt. Gretna Newsletter

Mt. Gretna, Pa. "Not a place, but a spirit."       Marlin Seiders (1927-2008)

No. 138                                                                                                          March 2013

Surrounding Mt. Gretna this month,
two plans that will help chart its future

    THERE'S more than usual on the plates of people concerned about the future of Mt. Gretna and its environs this month.  

    Two Regional Comprehensive Plans that will help shape the destiny of neighboring communities are nearing final approval stages in both townships surrounding Mt. Gretna Borough.

For many, Mt. Gretna's tree canopies are its essence. 

    And in one of them, South Londonderry Township, supervisors are also mulling a request made several years ago by Eastern Enterprises to change the zoning of its township properties from the current designation of Conservation to Residential. Dr. Eugene Otto, a principal of the firm, had asked for an update on that request at last month's supervisors' meeting in Mt. Gretna. He was out of the country at this newsletter's deadline, however, and unavailable to answer questions concerning reasons for the requested change.
   Township supervisors have asked for public comment on the requested zoning change at their Tuesday, March 12 meeting.
   They will also entertain comments following their regular meeting on that date on the final draft of a Regional Comprehensive Plan that would chart the future for all of South Londonderry Township, including the Mt. Gretna suburbs of Timber Hills, Conewago Hill, Timber Bridge and the residents of Timber Cove and Lakeview Drive.
    West Cornwall Township will hold its public hearing on its Regional Comprehensive Plan Thursday, March 7 at Cedar Crest High School.
   Both plans have attracted widespread comment from varied perspectives. Two municipalities that were part of the planning process a year ago (Cornwall Borough and North Londonderry Township) have since dropped out. Others have also expressed concerns over what they feel may be an erosion of property owners' rights through linkage to
Agenda 21, a United Nations plan adopted in 1992. Yet supporters of the Comprehensive Plans feel they are needed to assure efficient use of existing resources and to protect environmental and historical preservation interests.    
       Preserve Mt. Gretna president Marla Pitt hopes that West Cornwall Township supervisors will remain committed to the regional plan. "If they pull out, the township will have no comprehensive plan for future land use. How do we preserve the land and precious mature forests without a plan for suggested land use over the next ten years?"
   Ms. Pitt says that anyone looking at West Cornwall's planning map for surrounding municipalities will be struck by just how scarce are the forests. "We've already lost a large number of mature trees along each of the four entrances to Mt. Gretna," she says. "Where is the tipping point for the environment, the spirit and character of our unique community?"
   West Cornwall Township engineer Jeff Steckbeck points out that even without a Comprehensive Plan, West Cornwall Twp. has undergone less development in the past two decades than 24 of Lebanon County's 26 municipalities. That is due to the township's  "excellent zoning map and zoning ordinance," he says, which do not change because of comprehensive plans.
   Citing the 2011 request to rezone Eastern Enterprises' land in West Cornwall Twp., Steckbeck noted that "the sitting supervisors are not inclined to change the zoning of land around Mt. Gretna."
   Lebanon County planner Kristopher Troup told a
Harrisburg newspaper earlier this year that he regrets decisions to pull out of the regional planning process. With revenues limited, he said, "funding for new roads probably isn't going to happen. We've got to make what we have work better."
    Officials expect big turnouts at both sessions, and many of  those concerned about the future of Mt. Gretna have urged attendance. (See calendar below for details.)



How a sudden impulse nearly a century ago could make Easter dinners in Mt. Gretna suddenly easier than ever  


   It's a story that probably could happen only here, where sudden impulses to buy a cottage sometimes link families to Mt. Gretna for the next five or six generations.  
   As a bonus, it just might help Mt. Gretna homemakers place a freshly baked ham on their Easter dinner table without even driving to the store.

AB Groff: He knew what he liked when he saw it.

The story unfolds all because of New Holland, PA entrepreneur AB Groff. It was when he decided to take his family to dinner 92 years ago that the tale begins, at what was then known as The Kauffman House (today, the Mt. Gretna Inn).
   Mt. Gretna, as everyone knows, is a place where sudden inspirations to purchase cottages can strike without warning. The place Robert Coleman founded more than a century ago often has a magnetic effect on visitors.  
   When AB Groff brought his family here in 1921, he, too, was entranced by the setting.  
   While everyone waited to be seated for dinner, Mr. Groff -- who had started the New Holland Bank as well as the town's wagon works, hardware and farm implement stores -- decided to take a stroll around what was then a new neighborhood that would come to be known as Mt. Gretna Heights.
   When he returned a few minutes later to rejoin the family, he announced that he'd just bought a cottage at 72 Pine Avenue.
   Six generations later, that cottage is still in the same family and the site of biennial family reunions. It is today owned by AB Groff's great-granddaughter Patricia Groff Hershock and her husband Bob, a former 3M executive.  
   Bob and Pat Hershock, who had grown up in Lancaster County, returned after he retired from his business career. They bought and renovated a farm in Mt. Joy. When they later placed it in the Lancaster Farmland Trust, it was time to move permanently to the family cottage in Mt. Gretna.
   So how does that connect to ham dinners at Easter in Mt. Gretna?

Headed for Easter dinners tables

It just happens that the Hershock's daughter, Lynn Thompson (inset, right), also moved back to Lancaster after she retired last summer from restaurant operations in Southern California.     
   Ms. Thompson, 53, thought it might be nice to open a HoneyBaked Ham franchise not only to keep busy herself ("You don't know how young 50 is," her mother, now 78, had told her), but also to keep both of her still-bursting-with-energy parents engaged as well.

Lynn Thompson: Apples don't fall far from the tree.

   Together they're opening a HoneyBaked Ham Café and Catering business at Mill Creek Square on Route 30, 2350 Lincoln Highway East in Lancaster.
   Ms. Thompson says they'll take credit card orders by phone (717-208-3595) and arrange for Mt. Gretna deliveries. "Depending on how many orders we get from Mt. Gretnans, we'll either make home deliveries or arrange for pickups Wednesday, March 27 at the Playhouse parking lot," she says.
    Ms. Thompson adds that you can register to receive coupons and other offers online at "Be sure to select Lancaster as  your favorite location," she adds.
   So what about those Groff/Hershock Family Reunions which take place on alternate years on Pine Avenue? There's another one scheduled for 2013. But won't Bob, Pat and Lynn simply be too busy with their new venture?   
   Not at all, says Ms. Thompson. "Only this year, the whole affair will be handled by HoneyBaked Cafe and Catering."



Questions Readers Ask

A residential area sewer pumping station in South Carolina. 

   [] I thought you might like to see how they camouflage sewer pumping stations down South.  

  This photo is of a site 24' square surrounded by shrubbery and a gated wooden fence 8' high in a suburban community in South Carolina.

   In Mt. Gretna each summer, an estimated 168,000 visitors come to our community, and many of them enter via Route 117 where the first thing they see is our sewer pumping station. All of us who live here have to look at it every day as well. Can't something be done to change the appearance of a facility that nearly everyone agrees is simply atrocious?


<>   Help is on the way!  Enthusiastic volunteers are now at work with Preserve Mt. Gretna to soften the appearance of the pumping station. They will be discussing their ideas with West Cornwall Township officials over the coming weeks to create a more attractive façade.
    Township engineer Jeff Steckbeck says the municipal authority has approved $600 in funding which could be used for shrubs, plants and mulch. He himself has offered to contribute $100.

The Mt. Gretna sewer pumping station built last year along Route 117

Hopefully, others will as well.
    Originally the pumping station was to have been constructed along the rail trail. Later, however, West Cornwall sewer authority officials decided to move it about 800 yards downhill to the Route 117 site. "It made sense to put it at the bottom of the hill to serve the community's needs for many years to come," says supervisor Glen Yanos.   
    Both Steckbeck and Yanos say they had hoped to construct the station 25 feet closer to a creek that runs in back of the facility to allow a side entrance rather than one out front. "We recognized the importance of having the station blend in with the area," says Yanos. Yet an Army Corps of Engineers biologist asked that it be moved 150 feet away from the creek to provide a wetlands buffer. Steckbeck points out that eliminated 25 feet of what might have been front yard space for plantings to shield the facility from public view. Accomplishing that goal is now the aim of Preserve Mt. Gretna, other community volunteers including a Master Gardener, and West Cornwall officials like Yanos. They hope to come up with a solution this spring.




    WINTERITES meetings have a decidedly new look nowadays. Men as well as women now attend mont gatherings of a 63-year-old organization that once was the exclusive province of women. Last month's session -- favorite books from childhood -- brought out Timber Hills neighbors Dominick Morriello, Sid Hostetter and Mel Kaplan, among 40 or so others. "The meetings are open to all in the environs of Mt. Gretna," says President Donna Kaplan. "I say 'environs' because some of our members have moved away, but not far away."
. This month's gathering, on Tuesday, March 5, begins at 1 pm when the Winterites will assemble at the fire hall for desserts, conversations and maybe a game of Scrabble, bridge, Canasta or whatever other games people bring along to share with friends both old and new. "Playing games is not compulsory," says Ms. Kaplan. "Socialization is the purpose."                                                  
Evelyn Koppel photo.


   EARLY SIGN OF S They certainly look for all the world like the first sprouting buds on a cherry blossom tree somewhere in Mt. Gretna.     
   Alas, they're not.
   Still, photographer Jane Mourer came up with a pretty promise of spring in mid-February through this interpretive glance of a snow-covered tree along Pinch Road opposite Governor Dick Park.

   It happened on one of the 19 occasions this season that snow plows and salt trucks have swung into action. So far, this winter has been unusually cold, but it has seen only about 15 inches of snow.
   No, that's not a record by any means. But the borough has used more ice-dissolving road salt this year than last, says Bill Care who, among dozens of other duties, is more or less Mt. Gretna's official record-keeper of what's known in municipal-speak as "snow events."
   That's because when whatever comes down falls in solid form, he and his intrepid crew must scurry to shovel, scrape and subdue it. So it pays to keep tabs on the totals..

                                                                                                                                                               Jane Mourer photo

   MAYBE the toughest part of being a groundhog is answering the questions of 4- and 5-year olds.

   This year's inquisition zinger came from Mt. Gretna Nursery School skeptic-with-hand-in-mouth Zen Donten (inset, left): "Why does a groundhog wear Crocs on her feet?"

   Translator Joanne Gingrich (seated to Zen's right) provides all the answers since Penny can't talk. Her inspired reply: "Groundhogs get cold just like people."

   Making up stuff on the fly is the top prerequisite of a CGT (Certified Groundhog Translator).

  Penny's answer apparently dispelled 5-year-old Zen's doubts about whether a person was actually inside the furry suit. Afterwards, he brought forth a Valentine's Day treat he'd made himself, gave her a big hug and told Penny he loved her.


   2013 Restaurateur of the Year. That's Kendra Feather, daughter of Joe and Laura Feather of Conewago Hill.
   Ever since she moved to Richmond, Va. a dozen or so years ago she's discovered a knack her mother never knew she had: A Brobdingnagian talent for running restaurants. First it was a vegetarian restaurant in a university campus community, then a breakfast and luncheon cafe she named after her late grandmother, then an elegant spot called The Roosevelt and last year a bakery.
   All of which was enough to win her the top award at this year's Elby, a gathering of nearly 400 Richmonders held last month to honor excellence in the Richmond area's restaurant community.


   There's nothing quite so lonely as a Mt. Gretna tennis court in March, so newly electe Men's Club presiden Sandy Moritz (inset) decided to brighten the scene with Murphy, an 11-year-old black Labrador Retriever that, she says, simply adores tennis.
   Rest assured, however, the whole place is about to perk up as volunteers turn out at 9 am Saturday, April 6 with rakes and gloves to spruce up the courts, benches, barbecue pit, shuffleboard courts and pavilion for summer.   
  Like to become a member? Call or email Ms. Moritz, 269-3989 or for a membership application. 
   Social memberships provide use of the grounds including a pavilion and shuffleboard area and cost $20 a year. "It's a great place for a reunion or family picnic," she says.

   You probably already know that nobody -- absolutely nobody -- is more serious about their fun than a Duplicate Bridge player.
   So it won't surprise you to learn the details of this story: When they arrived at the fire hall for their regular 9 am Thursday morning game on Va's Day, the Winterites bridge players discovered a nearly frozen hall. That's because sometime in the middle of a 10-degree night the furnace had suddenly conked out.
   Turn around and go home? Not these folks. 
   They dashed back to their cars, but only to collect blankets from their trunks. Then, in coats, caps and scarves, the games began.
   Somebody called a repairman, of course. But in the meantime, gloves and mitttens were out. Frozen fingers were a price stalwarts like Dr. Steve Winer (inset, right) were willing to pay. 
  So w Charlie Harris, Laura Feather and Pat Quarato (inset, left) and more than two dozen others.
   A few hours later the repairman arrived. He untangled a kink in the gas line, and the heaters were soon working again.  Play continued with coffee and snacks until nearly 1 pm.
   The games are a $3 per person fundraiser for the Winterites. They donate the proceeds to the fire company. "We didn't charge anyone that day, however," said the group's president, Donna Kaplan.



Dinosaurs? Don't count them out just yet      

JUST because nobody's seen a dinosaur recently -- and by that we mean in the last
65 million years or so -- doesn't mean they're not still with us in one form or another.   

    Sid Hostetter, who moved here five years ago and (with wife Evelyn Koppel) promptly founded the Mt. Gretna Bird Club that attracts enthusiastic birders on hikes every Friday morning, thinks there's a good chance that dinosaurs survived as the birds we see around us today.   

    It's an opinion founded on solid experience and years of training, an interest kindled by a life-long fascination with dinosaurs that began around age 6 when he first discovered tiny plastic dinosaurs packed into cereal boxes. Over the ensuing years it's been fortified by more than a decade of scientific research and exploration in the dinosaur bone beds of Montana.

Laid by a dinosaur 65 million years ago, maybe it'll wind up someday in an Easter Egg hunt on the White House lawn.

  A retired teacher who spent his summers at excavation sites and museums unearthing and mounting dinosaurs with professional researchers, Sid Hostetter probably ranks among the best-informed amateurs anywhere. A former president of the Delaware Valley Paleontological  Society, he also has one of the largest Northeastern U.S. private collections of dinosaur fossils, including fragments of dinosaur eggs he discovered in Montana, where he often spent summers during his years as an earth science teacher in suburban Philadelphia. 

   How do researchers sort through mounds of dirt, rocks and debris piled up over the centuries to discover dinosaur remnants, some of which Hostetter now displays in tiny circular glass cases?  

   It's a different way of seeing, he says. "You begin by fixing in your mind that what you're looking for is something brand new to your brain. It's called a 'search image.'   

  "Once you get that image firmly in mind, you can then find these things. But without a search image, you can't see them at all. It's a matter of training your mind to pick out, from the thousands of things you're looking at, unique things of a certain shape, design, texture and sometimes color. It's something I've done for a very long time, doing it over and over again. Not everyone has that ability, but it's one reason I was asked by the professionals to participate in this type of research."  

   Why didn't dinosaurs survive?  "My feeling is they did survive," says Hostetter. "They survived as the birds we see today. The non-avian dinosaurs died out about 65 million years ago. The first ones were discovered by people who thought they were giant lizards, so they classified them as reptiles. They weren't. Yet they weren't exactly birds either.  

   "They were different from any group that's alive today. They had some characteristics

Dinosaur descendent?  

Sid Hostetter photo

of reptiles and some of birds or perhaps even mammals. They may have been warm-blooded as babies and then became cold blooded as they grew into adults," he says.    

    What does he intend to do with his private collection? Probably donate it to a museum someday so that others can also enjoy it, he says.

   Meanwhile he's thinking about pursuing a missed opportunity that occurred when someone from President Ronald Reagan's staff one day interrupted Hostetter's class with a phone call. They wanted to know if they could borrow a dinosaur egg to use at the annual Easter Egg Hunt on the White House lawn.  

   "I checked with the scientists who had invited me to participate in their research," says Hostetter. "But they thought that using a dinosaur egg for such an event might be considered too frivolous, not quite appropriate for the serious nature of their scientific research. 

   "Now that I'm retired, I have different thoughts. It might just help kindle youngsters' interest in science," he says. Maybe even more than plastic dinos in cereal boxes.



 OPEN for Mt. Gretna-to-Colebrook travelers this summer: Route 117 will not be closed this year, thanks to a delay in plans at PennDOT to replace a small "single span bridge" beneath the highway that had been scheduled for replacement. The project would have detoured traffic to Mine and Butler roads north of Mt. Gretna for five months this summer.  

   Penn DOT assistant maintenance manager for County Chris Miller now says the project won't get started until May 1, 2014.

   "I think they ran into permit issues with DER,"he says.  

   When the work finally gets underway, PennDOT expects to have the road open in time for the 2014 Art Show weekend.  

  Still closed, however, is a road that Mt. Gretnans often use whenever they're headed to Tony's Mining Company restaurant or Cornwall Manor.     The ancient bridge near the Cornwall Iron Furnace museum has now been demolished and removed, says Cornwall borough manager Steve Danz. He's now preparing bids for its replacement, at an expected cost of $200,000. Dantz thinks the work will be finished and the road reopened this summer. 


   THEY'RE going up on homes throughout the Campmeeting: 7" x 5" bronze plaques designating each cottage as being listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  


 Created as a Campmeeting Association fundraiser by resident Ben Wiley and featuring Andy Shemeta's 1992 Centennial pencil drawing of the Tabernacle, the first 100 plaques sold out in 23 days. More are expected, hopefully with deliveries sometime in May. For details, contact Campmeeting office manager Debby Erb,     



   CORNWALL Police last month reported a new twist on an old scam. An elderly woman received a phone call offering free medical supplies for her diabetes tests "if she qualified." To determine her eligibility, however, the caller needed her Medicare account number (which, of course, is exactly the same as the Social Security number with one extra digit).  

 After she provided her Medicare number, police determined the call had originated from the Dominican Republic and was, in fact, a scam. "Never provide Medicare account information over the phone," police said in an email advisory to residents.
   To receive such emailed alerts from police chief Bruce Harris, drop him a note ( Cornwall Police Department provides coverage for most of Mt. Gretna together with South Londonderry Township P.D. (which serves the Mt. Gretna areas of Timber Hills, Conewago Hill and Timber Bridge). 



A sprightly series heads into 16th season

   Mt; Gretna has a knack for turning spontaneous inspirations into good things that last. Maybe it's bound up in our legacy somehow.
   After all, nobody actually asked Robert Coleman to start a railroad and build a town here in the first place.
  Music at Gretna started when Carl Ellenberger decided to invite a few friends to play classical music on Sunday afternoons.
  The annual art show began when a handful of artists who lived here got together nearly 40 years ago and came up with the idea to hold an exhibit for maybe a few people who liked art.
   And 16 years ago who would have thought that organ recitals in the cozy living room of a private home would launch a series that would come to be recognized as a coveted "must" on the schedules of aspiring performers.  
   Few saw the promise. Peter Hewitt and Walter McAnney, however, acted on its potential.
   This year, now in their 80s, they'll again welcome guest performers and audiences into their gracious two-story home at the intersection of Princeton Avenue and Pinch Road.
   It  will be the 16th year for a four-concert series in July that annually brings to Mt. Gretna organists with exceptional talent and ascending careers.

Ryan Brunkhurst: "native son"

   For its 16th season, Hewitt has lined up: an organist who also oversees 16 different choirs; a Wilkes-Barre artist who performs regularly in Europe as well as America; the music director at one of Harrisburg's most celebrated churches; and the young man who became perhaps the youngest church choir director in America during his early organ studies under the tutelage of Hewett and McAnney here in Mt. Gretna.

  The schedule:

   [ ] Wednesday, July 3: Helen Anthony, Derry Presbyterian Church organist in Hershey. A graduate of Westerminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, Ms. Anthony not only concertizes but also oversees 16 choirs. 

  [ ] Thursday, July 11: Mark Laubach, organist and choirmaster at St. Stephens' Episcopal Church in Wilkes-Barre. A Canon Precentor of the Diocese of Bethlehem, he regularly performs in Germany and Great Britain as well as America, says Hewitt.

  [ ] Thursday, July 18: Eric R. Riley, of Harrisburg's Market Square Presbyterian Church, has performed throughout the country and appears regularly at the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy. A critic in Bologna, Italy wrote, "Riley enchanted the audience."

 [ ] Thursday, July 25: Ryan A. Brunkhurst, "our native son," says Hewitt. Brunkhurst, currently studying Organ Performance at the Jacobs School of Music, is assistant organist at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Indianapolis. He will soon resume duties as assistant organist in Louisville, KY at St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church. Brunkhurst began his professional life at age 13 here at Mt. Gretna's United Methodist Church as both organist and choir director.

  Concerts that include light refreshments are presented without charge but donations are appreciated. Rhoda Long (304-0248) welcomes volunteers who can help with snacks.    
   Space is limited, and details concerning seating reservations are usually announced in the spring. 



With a knack for picking stars, Gretna Theatre's headed for Broadway          
DON'T THINK for a minute that Gretna Theatre goes to sleep in the winter. They're lining up shows, auditoning more than a thousand actors both here and in New York City, presenting Valentine's Day specials and arranging bus trips to Broadway like the one coming up this month.   Details appear on the website for two Broadway choices this month -- both with actors who have also starred at the Mt. Gretna Playhouse. Scott Wakefield (here in 2010 as Will Rogers and back last month for the Love Round the Piano

Valentine's Day favorite at Lantern Lodge) appears in the new musical Hands on a Hard Body. Jack Scott (in Gretna Theatre's 2011 production of Funny Girl) is now on 

Broadway in Disney's Newsies.

   The $145 trip offers a luxury motor coach complete with coffee and donuts for the 9 am departure, free time in Manhattan, and a glass of wine for the return trip which departs at 7 pm. Details appear online


Coming: Another community-wide yard sale in Timber Hills 

   IT'S the third annual yard sale for organizers in Timber Hills who are leading efforts to make the neighborhood more of . . . well, a neighborhood. With game nights, bring-your-own-beverages-and-treats-to-share parties at a private home in summer and order-what-you-want gatherings at the Timbers in mid-winter, the initiative is well underway.
   Yard sales are another ingredient to help folks get to know their neighbors better. The first two sales have worked so well that another is coming up Saturday, April 20.
   Patsy Oburn asks those who want sale items or addresses shown in advance publicity and maps to contact her ( before Monday, April 1.

For Gretna Theatre, it's a country music night    

   SHE'S a two-time Grammy winner, had 14 top five country music hits with six topping the charts at No. 1, and sold over six million records with tunes like (click here for video).  

   It sounds like a sure sell-out for Country Music Female Vocalist of the year Pam Tillis (inset) when she stops here at the Mt. Gretna Playhouse June 8.  Never heard of Pam Tillis? Maybe it's time to broaden your horizons. For sure it's time for country music fans to reserve their seats. This one's likely to be SRO. Details online.  



   BOOK STUDY planned at Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church next month, with teachers Dave Garver and Ron Jones leading four weekly discussions on faith sharing, based on a book by William Fay. Jones is now taking orders (at for anyone who wishes to attend the sessions or simply obtain a copy of the book.



JOHN E. WENGERT (1933 - 2013)
   JOHN WENGERT, 79, a former president of Wengert's Dairy who lived north of Mt. Gretna on Butler Road, died Feb. 26 in Good Samaritan Hospital. He and wife Marie Wengert had been married 48 years. A graduate of Lebanon High School, where he played varsity football and was Student Council president, he graduated in 1955 from Yale University and then served in the U.S. Navy until 1958. Afterwards, he attended Penn State University for a year to study dairy science.
   Among his many  activities, both locally and statewide, he was president and chairman of the Lebanon County United Way, acting president of the Lebanon YMCA Board, president of the Lebanon Valley Conservancy and served as an advisor to the Lebanon Valley Rails to Trails, which runs through Mt. Gretna and was founded by his son John B. Wengert. Services will be held Saturday, March 2 at 12 noon at Cornwall United Methodist Church. A complete obituary appears

STANLEY T. HOLLINGER (1920 - 2013)
  STAN HOLLINGER, 92, a former board member of the Mt. Gretna Campmeeting Association and active member of the Mt. Gretna Bible Festival program committee, died in a Mechanicsburg hospital Feb. 25. An Army Air Corps veteran of WWII, he had worked at Olmsted Air Force Base in Middletown and, later, at the Navy Supply Depot in Mechanicsburg, where he retired. 
   Surviving are Edith, his wife of 53 years, two daughters and a granddaughter.
   A celebration of life service Monday, March 4 at 3 pm will be held at the Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church, to which contributions in his honor may be made. A complete obituary appears

ALMA R. SCHMALZER (1922-2013)

   FROM the time she moved to the apartments in Timber Hills in 2003 with her husband Hank, the former Lebanon High School football coach, Alma Schmalzer quickly converted it into a warm and welcoming spot not only for close neighbors but for the whole community.
   A graduate of Mary Washingtion College and a special education teacher at Cleona Elementary School, she had seemingly dedicated her life to extending a helping hand wherever she saw a need, says her friend and neighbor Donna Kaplan.
   Born in Vienna, Va. 90 years ago, she died Jan. 31 at home. Survivors include her husband of nearly 68 years, Henry W. Schmalzer, two sons, a daughter, eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
   "She was a cheerful woman, active in her church at Schaefferstown and involved as a volunteer at Cedar Haven," says Ms. Kaplan. "She never passed by anyone without stopping to offer a ride or perhaps just to chat. Her always thinking of others made you think of her." A complete obituary appears

   NOTED in passing. . .
Kevin Gray, a former Mt. Gretna Playhouse performer who billed top roles on Broadway in "Miss Saigon," "Music of the Night" and became the youngest actor ever to play the titular role in "The Phantom of the Opera," died of a heart attack Feb. 11 in Hartford, Conn. He was 54. When he appeared here in "The Three Phantoms" in 2008, Gray reminded the Playhouse audience that he had been here once before, in 1987.
   That turned out to be a magical year for Gretna Theatre Associate Artistic Director Renee Krizan, just out of college. The performers on Mt. Gretna's stage that year not only convinced her to renew a season ticket subscription, but -- under the enchanting spell of Gray, fellow lead performer Faith Prince and a bit player by the name of John Pielmeier who later wrote the award-winning "Agnes of God" -- Renee also determined to become "a part of the magic."  She's been an integral part of Gretna Theatre ever since.

   JUDITH KOOY UHLIG (1914-2013)

   JUDY UHLIG, 98, died Feb. 19, in Anne Arundel Medical Center, of pulmonary complications. She was predeceased by her husband, William "Frank" Uhlig. Prior to moving to Annapolis, she and her husband had lived for a time alongside the Wenzlers in Timber Hills Apartments. That put her close to a daughter and her husband who lived in the Campmeeting, recalls Nancy Hatz, herself a Mt. Gretna resident of long standing.
   Next-door neighbor Donna Kaplan remembers that Judy "had coffee ready for us and the movers when we moved in."
   Born in Winnipeg, Canada, Ms. Uhlig was a graduate of the New York School of Art. She enjoyed travel and spent time in South Korea and the Caribbean with her husband, a consultant for SCORE (formerly, Service Corps of Retired Executives).
  She attended Zion Lutheran Church in Lebanon where she sang in the choir. An accomplished pianist, she also sang with the Sweet Adelines and the Harmonia Society.
A complete obituary appears online.



Updates & Stuff to 

Post on

The Fridge


Did someone say Irish dinner?


Buffet breakfast with all the trimmings at fire hall, starting at 8 am and continuing until noon. Just stuff your donation in the firefighter's boot (where donations usually average close to $11 per person and some folks generously stuff in $50 and $100 bills). 

Music by the fire. Bring your instruments for a bluegrass session and sing-along at the Governor Dick Nature Center, 1 to 4 pm.



Reservations deadline to honor our First Responders -- that big Lasagna (meat or vegetable) Night Dinner at the fire hall March 20 by Chef-on-the-Go Becky. Donation: $20 per person, payable to Kathy Snavely, P.O. Box 622, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064.


Joint Public Hearing for the Cornwall-Lebanon Regional Comprehensive Plan, Cedar Crest High School, 6 pm. Details appear online  


Local auditions at Mt. Gretna Fire Hall for Gretna Theatre, 10 am - 6 pm. Note: Sunday's call is only for those with local housing and transportation. See website for details. 


Public hearing on South Londonderry and Palmyra Regional Multi-Municipal Comprehensive Plan at the Municipal Building, 20 W. Market St., Campbelltown. The session will begin at approximately 8 pm, immediately following the supervisors' monthly meeting. An original draft of the plan appears online.   


Junior Naturalist program at Governor Dick Park for children 5 and up, 7-8 pm. Registration: $10. Details: 964-3808 or email   


Authentic Irish dinner at Le Sorelle. Take your choice: Sausage in puffed pastry; Beef, Beer and Blue Cheese Pot Pie; or Cheesy Baked Fish. With appetizers like Irish potato cakes and desserts that include Irish Trifle and Chocolate Beer Cupcake with whiskey filling. Details: Call Amy 269-3876,  


Emanuel Ax, hailed as one of the six greatest pianists of the last 50 years, performs works of Beethoven and Chopin in a Gretna Music concert at Elizabethtown College, 8 pm at the Leffler Center.   

Another five-session R.A.D. self-defense course for women, sponsored by Cornwall Police Dept., begins at Cornwall Elementary School, 5:30-9:30 pm. Email or call Stephanie Burris, 274-2071. Offered without charge.   


FIRST RESPONDERS DINNER, honoring those who protect our community.  A meat or vegetable lasagna dinner with Italian bread, salad and dessert. Starting 6:30 pm at the fire hall.  Kathy Snavely has details: ( 

Lenten service at Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church. 7 pm 


Mt. Gretna Easter Egg Hunt, 11 am at the Chautauqua playground. Rain date: March 30. (Note: Egg dyeing fun begins at Fellowship Hall at Mt. Gretna UMC, Thursday, March 21, 6:30 pm) 

Owl Prowl with naturalist Tom Powers at the Governor Dick Nature Center. Dress for an outdoor adventure calling owls. 6:30 pm   


The Gathering Place, a fellowship luncheon at Mt. Gretna UMC, noon. Everyone invited; free will offering.  

 West Cornwall Twp. Planning Commission expected to consider approval for a 10-home development on 37 acres zoned Residential Forest and located along Mine and Butler roads.  7 pm at the township office, 73 South Zinns Mill Rd.     


Maundy Thursday services, Mt. Gretna UMC, 7 pm  


Easter Sunrise service, Soldiers Field, 7 am; traditional worship services at Mt. Gretna UMC, 8:30 and10 am. 

Don't forget:

Mt. Gretna's new year-round calendar appears online, a service of the Mt. Gretna Arts Council. Email listings and updates to Jennifer Veser Besse at   







   You don't have to travel very far before you wonder why you ever left Mt. Gretna in the first place.
   I read about those new statistics they call the "Happiness Index." They say it's a way to tell where people are happiest. How do they really know?   
   What they might want to do instead is come up with a "Trust Index," something that measures just how jumpy people are about walking down a street, locking up their car or leaving their tip out in the open on a restaurant table.
   Down in a small Southern town last month, three well-dressed ladies came into the best pancake place in the vicinity and rushed through a late breakfast. As they were leaving, one turned to go back and move their tip to the cash register. "I'd better not leave this on the table," she said.   
   Other than a guy seated at the counter, Carol and I were the only two people in the place. We resisted the urge to ask who, exactly, she thought might want to deprive the waitress of her hard- earned money. Then we noticed their license plate. A thousand miles from Chicago, they probably had never really left.   
   That brought to mind a fellow who pulled up in a car outside the Mt. Gretna post office, parked it along Princeton Avenue, and inserted one of those unwieldy devices known as "The Club" (a hardened steel anti-theft bar) across his steering wheel.
   "You're not from around here, are you?" I said.
   "How'd you know?" he asked.
   Then he turned around, looked back at his car parked on a placid street, a Club locked down tight and, with a wry grin, answered his own question.
    Want an antidote to jumpiness? Give up 24/7 television news channels and get out to talk with people who live in the neighborhood, people having breakfast at the pizza shop, and people you meet in the post office. "One of the healthiest things for any community," said Andy Rooney, "is a post office where everyone comes to pick up mail." Let's hope ours continues. It's one of those spots that regularly brightens your outlook, where the people you meet every day restore your faith in humanity.
    Of course, Mt. Gretna isn't perfect. We have just enough reminders to keep us on our toes.
    Every so often the Cornwall Police Department sends out email notices when somebody tries to take advantage of us older folks, or actually make off with something from the inside of a house. It doesn't happen often, but it happens just often enough to send a beneficial jolt. We all need something to push up against, something besides frosty winters and soaring tax bills.   
   Still, Mt. Gretna may be the only place where you can walk out of an art gallery with a painting that has an honor system envelope on the back, addressed to the artist who'll receive your check.  
   As far as I know, they never get burned. People like to be trusted.
   About 20 years ago, in the same Southern town where the Chicago ladies retrieved their tip last month, a woman at a local store told me I didn't need an ID for the personal check I wrote. "You have an honest face," she said. Every time I go back to that town, I make it a point to stop in her store and buy something.
   A Trust Index? Maybe it isn't such a bad idea after all.  
   I'll bet they'd give Mt. Gretna a high score.

   Kindest regards,

   Roger Groce

 P.S. It is in this space that I usually add a reminder that this newsletter is nobody's official anything. It is, like a crossword puzzle, merely a retirement pastime. It keeps me out of the kitchen and in touch with people I like -- people who also happen to like Mt. Gretna, which, as the late Marlin Seiders once observed, "is not a place, but a spirit."


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