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The Mt. Gretna Newsletter

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

No. 141                                                                                                          August 2013


Hi-tech in a century-old building 

   AT THE MT. GRETNA SCHOOL OF ART this summer,  guest speakers kept their promise to appear even if a temporary illness set them back. From her offices in Texas, noted artist, author and lecturer Amber Scoon addressed students at the Hall of Philosophy via Skype. She planned to jet to Pennsylvania the next day for her critique of the work done by 21 students who enrolled for the school's first year. MGSOA is already planning its 2014 season.
   Ms. Scoon joined 23 other luminaries from the art world (including lecturers from Harvard, Yale and Princeton) in getting Mt. Gretna's six-week intensive studies program underway. The Chautauqua Institution in New York encouraged applicants unable to fill one of 40 spots in its arts studies program to switch to Mt. Gretna.
   Evelyn Koppel, among many local residents who hosted students at dinners in their homes, says "the students were wonderful, and the art school is one of the best things to happen in Mt Gretna this summer."  MGSOA is already planning its 2014 season.  



Just ahead: Mt. Gretna's most festive weekend of the year

.  AFTER people move to Mt. Gretna, it doesn't take them long to discover there's an extra holiday on the calendar.  

   Count on it: the most festive time of the whole year rolls around every third weekend in August, when it's time for the Mt. Gretna Outdoor Art Show.  
   It'll repeat this month for the 39th consecutive year, on Saturday and Sunday Aug. 17-18.
   Rising up on the tree-shaded grounds of the Chautauqua will be tents that seem to mushroom from out of nowhere.

Not your everyday experience at shopping malls or on QVC: a chance to buy art from those who created it. 

   Actually, they come from about 28 states, arriving mostly on Friday afternoon to serve as the display booths for 260 exhibitors.   
   Artists, jewelers, potters, sculptors and weavers scramble to set up their wares before the show opens on Saturday. Selected by a panel of judges from the world of craftsmen, artists, designers and educators, they're among the best at what they do anywhere in the country.   
   To keep things fresh, show director Linda Bell chooses different judges every year. This year's panel, who made their selections in April, include a fine arts furniture craftsman, an art teacher, a former technical illustrator who is now a university humanities instructor and a former fabrics artist -- all with ties to the Mt. Gretna community where residents share a common bond: wide-ranging interests in all things relating to the arts.  Regardless of their profession, almost everybody seems to play an instrument, paint pictures, write stories, cultivate flowers, build dollhouses or maybe even shape wrought-iron designs in a blacksmith shop they set up in their backyard.  
   Across the highway are artists who didn't go through the rigorous judging process but choose to exhibit in what's known as a Summer Crafts Market. The market has no official ties to the juried show, but it nevertheless attracts many talented and imaginative exhibitors eager to pay $275 to $325 for a spot on the grounds of a former baseball field.
   On both sides of the highway artists can usually count on a big crowd. Last year's juried show under the shade of century-old trees of the Chautauqua attracted 16,731 visitors, some 36% more than in 2011. In terms of attendance, it was the fourth-biggest ever.
   In revenues, however, it topped all records, with $109,898 for distribution to the Mt. Gretna Fire Company, Lawn Ambulance service, local municipalities and cultural and arts organizations including Gretna Music, Gretna Theatre, Cicada Festival and the Mt. Gretna Arts Council.  
   Several of the arts recipients -- Gretna Theatre and Gretna Music particularly -- will find those funds especially welcome this year. Unusually hot, wet days as the summer began discouraged attendance at the open air Playhouse. For Gretna Theatre, dwindling crowds seemed to threaten its very survival, particularly with the double blow of a sharp increase for office rent (amid property tax hikes that sometimes soared 300 to 500 percent) and a sudden, unexpected loss of actor housing at Cornwall Manor. "A perfect storm," said producing artistic director Larry Frenock in a letter to supporters -- a wallop that added over $100,000 to the theatre's operating costs.   
   Gretna Music, hoping for a big turnout for this month's annual House Tour -- normally its single-biggest fundraiser of the year -- also has struggled with sparse audiences. One exception: Sarah Chang, who filled all but 110 seats in the 700-seat Playhouse July 3. Her sizable concert fee was largely underwritten by long-time Mt. Gretna resident Nancy Hatz, who had also subsidized Midori's record-setting appearance at a concert here in 2007.
   Such turnouts suggest that angels who can help attract big names to Mt. Gretna may be a galvanizing force for both Gretna Theatre and Gretna Music in the future.          
   Although organizers of the art show rarely emphasize a need to increase the size of crowds and revenues, the show has nevertheless weathered rocky economic times.  
   One reason is its dedicated corps of volunteers. "About 200 of them," says Ms. Bell. "They come out of the woodwork and do a good job. I don't want to question that too closely for fear it may go away. But I do worry that we're all getting older, and I don't have a good answer for where tomorrow's volunteers and exhibiting artists will come from."

Another aim: "Make the food at the show as special as the art.".

Even without the answer, however, one clue to the show's sustainability may lie in a philosophy that transcends ever-increasing crowds and profits.
   Ms. Bell, who has held her post as its unpaid director for at least 17 years, says the larger purpose has always been to introduce artists to a wider audience, display fresh perspectives on art that can become an integral part of people's homes, give those who buy art a chance to speak directly with those who created it, and experience a gourmet food court filled by vendors who produce "food that is as special as the art."
   Yet the show's success from one year to the next also rests on a fair amount of luck. Ever present dangers include torrential downpours, severe windstorms that can fell limbs and flatten tents, and scorching temperatures that often convince many to stay put in their air-conditioned homes.   
   Although it has never happened, a sudden decision to cancel the entire two-day show because of weather emergencies is an integral part of Ms. Bell's contingency planning.  
    Outdoor shows elsewhere have been decimated by tornadoes and violent storms, forcing refunds of exhibitor fees and wiping out a fresh infusion of gate receipts. She keeps $64,000 in reserve to guard against such calamities.
   Another focus that insures the show's continued popularity are events designed especially for children.
    This year's attractions, offered at no added cost in the $10 admission price, include a special Gretna Theatre children's show, "Talk, the Musical" at the Playhouse, 11 am and 2 pm Saturday and noon and 2 pm Sunday.  
   Added children's delights are a balloon artist to create fanciful balloons, Dejango (Uncle Sam's insatiably curious monkey), face painting at the Chautauqua playground, and children helping other youngsters create crafts.
    Young performers will also provide musical entertainment. The "Emerging Artists" booth often includes youngsters as well.  
   With no presents to buy, entertaining limited to "Mt. Gretna casual" and porches filled with friends in rocking chairs, the annual art show is, next to Christmas itself, not only a favored holiday but also Mt. Gretna's idea of the perfect way to top off a summer.


In Mt. Gretna, a dog's life isn't always so easy

   EVEN if you're a dog with a cozy apartment near Manhattan, when you get to Mt. Gretna, the great outdoors is sometimes just too much to resist.
   After having been rescued from an abusive home in West Virginia and adopted 18 months ago into the waiting arms of Bill and Whitney Ackerman, seven-year-old Gigi probably thought life had taken a lucky turn. 
     But a few weeks ago, after the couple bought a cottage in Mt. Gretna where they planned to relax on weekends, Gigi wandered off on an adventure of her own.  

    Lost for eight days, Gigi, a Chihuahua terrier mix, triggered one of Mt. Gretna's biggest dog hunts.    

    At first, neighbors suggested she had headed into the state

Lost in the woods for eight days, Gigi, an adopted Chihuahua terrier mix, sparked one of Mt. Gretna's biggest dog hunts ever.

gamelands. Others saw her roaming through the center of Mt. Gretna.
    But after a few days, Gigi was nowhere to be seen.

    That set off a flurry of bulletin board posters, door-to-door flyers, professional tracking dogs, recorded  telephone messages to area vets, groomers and friends of animals, and eventually even an animal communicator.

    "I was skeptical about the communicator," admits Whitney. But her mother, who had learned from her dog's groomer about a woman in York, Pa. known for her ability to find lost pets, asked, "What have you got to lose?"   

    Almost a week after Gigi had wandered out the front door of their cottage, the telepathic communicator assured the couple that their little pet was still okay.

   "I can't tell you exactly where she is, but she's surviving on cat food near a yellow house with a chain link fence out back," said the communicator.

   Meanwhile, Bill and Whitney, heartbroken, returned to their jobs in New York City. "I found it hard to concentrate at work," says Whitney, who handles AIG's online advertising worldwide.

   "The people at Castaway Critters, where we had adopted her, cautioned us not to be surprised. If we found Gigi after she'd been gone so long, she would probably be a little distant toward us," said Whitney.

   The following weekend, they returned to their cottage and resumed the search. They followed a trail through Governor Dick Park that had been picked up by the tracking dogs.

   Then they got a telephone call.
   A woman who lives near the Pennsylvania Turnpike, just off Pinch Road, had received one of the door-to-door flyers circulated by Whitney's parents and a recorded phone call (one of 750 the couple had contracted for) from the online alerting service
   She called to say a dog that looked like Gigi had been in her back yard.

   On Saturday, Bill set a Havahart trap outside the woman's home -- a yellow house maybe two miles from the Ackerman's Yale Avenue cottage and about 300 yards from where the tracking dogs had lost Gigi's scent in Governor Dick forest. A 9-ft. chain link fence kept deer out of the property. And in the backyard were dishes the woman used to provide food and water for her cats.

   The couple continued their search, on foot and by car near the yellow house. But by Sunday afternoon, there had been no further sightings.

   Finally, when it came time to return once again to New York with heavy hearts but without Gigi, the Ackermans packed up to leave. They decided to stop once more at the yellow house off Pinch Road.
   Food they had left in the trap on Saturday remained untouched, and there was no sign of Gigi.    

   "We were literally going to leave and the next thing we knew, we heard from the other side of the driveway a little yip and what sounded like the metal and plastic tags on her collar," said Whitney.

   "We looked up, and on the other side of that deer fence Gigi appeared. I went over to her slowly, because we had been told she might be detached and try to run away.
    "But her reaction was the complete opposite. She was trying so hard to get herself through that deer fence. The openings were big enough that she could get her head through, but not her whole body.

   "I ran up to the fence, petted her, and she let me grab her collar.

   "Bill went back to find her leash so we could make sure she didn't run away," said Whitney.
    Her father, who is pushing 60 but still plays basketball a couple of times a week, climbed up, jumped over the tall fence and was able to pick up Gigi on the other side.
   "By holding her paws closer to her body, we were able to get her through one of the openings," she said.

   After eight anguished days, said Whitney afterward, clutching her pet, "it was almost a Hollywood ending."

   As a youngster, Bill had often visited Mt. Gretna with his parents. Whitney's parents attended the art show. He grew up in Hummelstown, she in York County.
    But they didn't meet until they were students at Oxford University in England about six years ago. They were married in 2009 but have no children yet.
    So Gigi, now safely back home in Brooklyn Heights and Mt. Gretna, makes it a happy threesome.




    MAYOR Joe Shay climbed out of the dunking tank to dry off and make room for Victoria Funck, a sometimes bartender at the Hideaway (who also happens to be married to restaurant owner Alan Funck). Part of the fun of a revived Mt. Gretna Days, like those th Rotary Club used to sponsor.

   Hot dogs and hamburgers, craft exhibits and take-your-chance games aplenty. But the most popular attraction was the dunking booth where local people -- including Mt. Gretna's postmaster, pastor, patrolman and even the pizzeria's major-domo -- took turns taunting their friends to pay $1 for three balls to hit the bull's eye and send them down with a splash.   

    They wound up wet, but the firefighter's fund drive got a boost, edging closer to its $400,000 goal to pay for a new addition to the fire hall, firemen's gear and a bigger fire engine.

    As part of the fun last month, Marianne Spychalski and Elizabeth Laur (inset, right),  introduced "Vittles, Virtues and Vultures," the fire company's new cookbook with 300 recipes -- "everything from appetizers to entrees."
   A cover design by artist Eleanor Sarabia harkens back to the Sarah Tyson Rorer Hall of Cookery (forerunner of the Hall of Philosophy) named for the Ladies' Home Journal's turn-of-the-century
domestic science editor who led cooking classes in the Chautauqua.  
   Proceeds of each $12 sale go into the fire company coffers. For gift-minded purchasers buying 10 copies or more, quantity discounts are offered. For details, email

 "I'M DIANE from Lancaster,

The only local in the Timbers' 2013 cast, audiences love Diane Huber (center).

Susan Afflerbach photo

Pennnsylvania." When the Timbers Dinner Theatre cast introduce themselves -- from places like Minnesota, Michigan and Upstate New York -- "the audience cheers and screams when I say where I'm from," says Lancaster native Diane Huber (center), who's just completed theatrical studies at Pace University.
   She's starred locally at Ephrata Playhouse and has also appeared at the Fulton and Dutch Apple theaters.
    Along with hundreds of others, Diane spent a full day in New York City this spring waiting to audition for a part in the Timbers' summer lineup.  "I love being here, and the warm, enthusiastic audiences make me feel I'm back home. It's a fun show," she says.
    Lebanon Daily News writer
Bill Warner agrees. The show runs Wednesdays through Saturdays (with a Wednesday matinee) until closing night (popular among locals who often join the cast on stage) Saturday, Aug. 31.

   HOORAY!  Just as promised, West Cornwall Township came through last month with a cedar fence to shield the sewer pumping station from public view along heavily-traveled Route 117, a main artery not only for Mt. Gretnans but also 160,000 summer visitors.
    With the fence completed, now comes a drive to add finishing touches of shrubbery. Like to lend a hand? Send your donation (not tax-deductible but doubly appreciated, say organizers) to Preserve Mt. Gretna, PO Box 285, Mt. Gretna, PA 17064. Need further details? Drop a note to

   REVIVING a tradition made memorable by the late Mt. Gretna mayor Ralph "Hogie" Hogentogler, Veser Besse (left), a college professor who grew up here and now lives with her husband in Timber Hills, led the parasol-pumping parade around the Playhouse during this  year's Jazz Worship Service with the New Black Eagles jazz band.
    Lancaster newspaper's popular
Scribbler columnist, Jack Brubaker, who happens to be Jennifer's uncle, was in the parade, too. "She remembered joining the march as a young girl with Hogentogler and her grandfather and other Mt. Gretnans," wrote the Scribbler, who thinks the New Orleans tradition "transfers well to Mt. Gretna."
   As the band "saluted the revival of the tradition, it was a bittersweet day for those of us who marched where Hotentogler" and others -- including John H. Brubaker, Jr. (Jack's father and Jennifer's grandfather, who lived with his wife Marie on Stevens Avenue in the Chautauqua) -- had marched years earlier. "He would have enjoyed the revival of the marching saints on July 7, 2013," said the Scribbler.

    PULITZER-PRIZE-winning journalist Bill Ecenbarger, who lived on Brown Avenue in the 1970s, returned last month as a guest speaker in Bill Gifford's popular Friday morning Writers' Series.
   His latest book,
Cash for Kids: Two Judges, Thousands of Children, and a $2.6 Million Kickback Scheme has received high praise from Boston Globe and New York Times reviewers.  

   What still amazes Ecenbarger: how so many local officials could have ignored shocking practices for so long. What sort of practices? Shackling youngsters in for-profit detention homes for offenses as minor as defacing a stop sign with a magic marker, for example.
   Corrupt Luzerne County judges now serving time in prison often accepted bribe money in their own chambers. The abuses came to light only after someone reported to the IRS that compared to their salaries the judges' lifestyles were outsized. What unfolded, starting in 2007, was a $2.6 million kickback scheme.  "Moral laryngitis," Ecenbarger calls it, one of the "worst crimes in Pennsylvania history."  

   Ecenbarger now lives in Hershey but says he and his wife sometimes mull over the possibility of moving back to Mt. Gretna some day
   The 10 am Writer's Series continues through Friday, Aug. 2 with Brendan I. Koerner discussing "The Skies Belong to Us," a tale of two young lovers whose skyjacker exploits in the 1970s gripped the nation.

 "HALF of my advertising is wasted, and I'd cut it out tomorrow if I knew which half it

Near the Mt. Gretna exit on Rte. 72, an experiment with billboard ads. 

was," the legendary Philadelphia retailer John Wanamaker once said.  

   That may explain the Jigger Shop's first foray into billboard advertising this year. 

   "We just thought we'd try something different," says co-owner Drew Allwein.
   "We can never be sure which radio station our customers listen to, which magazines they read, or which newspapers they subscribe to. But most drive every day, so we thought we'd give billboards a try," says Allwein, whose family has operated the award-winning Jigger Shop for nearly half a century.
   Consistently voted the "
best" ice cream shop in Central Pennsylvania, the shop also typically receives highest ratings by Pennsylvania Dept. of Agriculture inspectors. Its "alumni" roster, made up of generally top-performing college grads, includes former bus boys and ice cream servers who now hold distinguished posts in business, education and the arts.
   No wonder a spot at the Jigger Shop, where the Allweins run a tight ship with high standards, annually ranks among the most coveted of summer jobs.



Other newsletters of interest:

Mt. Gretna Updates -- Issued infrequently to alert local residents to local emergencies, temporary road closings, utility repairs, shelter advisories during adverse weather and other matters affecting only those living in Mt. Gretna. 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, e-mail 

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 FOUNDER Carl Ellenberger's blog (worth reading!): 

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, click on Questions: email Police Chief Bruce Harris.

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. Contact Michelle Shay,   


A preview of this month's Tour of Homes

    OF ALL Mt. Gretna Newsletter issues, August's is typically the one most likely to be forwarded by readers to their friends.  
    That's probably because it previews one of Central Pennsylvania's most popular house tours. 
     The 29th annual tour of homes -- in what the press release calls "a little town that seems more relaxing and enjoyable than the grind of daily life" -- runs 10 am to 5 pm Saturday, Aug. 3.

You can reach out the upstairs window and touch your neighbor's cottage in this traditional Campmeeting home.  Built in 1892, at the start of the United Brethren "campmeetings" and the founding of the Pennsylvania Chautauqua, this is one of the first Mt. Gretna sites.  The original deed names "William Butts and two ladies" as the builders. 

    Owners Kevin and Leeshaun Musick like to trace the cottage's architectural evolution by following clues left by piecemeal woodwork of the original Philadelphia beadboard and later board and battan construction that likely occurred in the early 1900s.  Peering out the upstairs windows gives a view of the home's Victorian gingerbread woodwork and neighboring paths, trees and cottages. 

Uneeda Rest
   Chinese lanterns cluster together on the wrap-around front porch of this home owned by Ted Martin and Dwayne Heckert.  A 1907 photo of the cottage showed similar lanterns illuminating the summer evening, so they collected paper lights on their visits to Hong Kong, Asia and Martha's Vineyard.  The front porch's paint design mirrors those they discovered among the Vineyard's Campmeeting Victorians.
   After purchasing "Uneeda Rest" from a church in 2004, Ted and Dwayne spent nearly three years restoring the cottage.  Once a porch, the kitchen had multiple layers of linoleum.  Samples saved from each layer now decorate the downstairs bathroom walls.  Beneath the final layer was a 1937 newspaper.  Ted framed the headlines which now hang in the kitchen.  That Depression-era newspaper inspired décor elsewhere, and they later discovered 1930s kitchen appliances on worldwide eBay but located in nearby Lebanon.

 As You Wish   Tucked into a Campmeeting walking path, "As You Wish" refers to the movie "The Princess Bride" and was a 35th wedding anniversary gift from Dale Kreider to his wife, Cheryl, in 2011.  In two short years, the couple removed much of what was modern in the cottage including light fixtures, countertops and appliances and replaced it all with vintage or antique finds from Craigslist, eBay and thrift stores.  They even found a 1920's era refrigerator and stove.  Likewise, they have preserved all of the original woodwork and doors on the interior of the cottage with an aim to "get it back to its original intention," said Cheryl.
   The Krieders, who live in Hershey, say that this cottage is "13 miles and 100 years" from their home.  

One Fine Landing
    Bob and Tammy Travitz sit on their wraparound porch of this cottage dating back to 1905 to enjoy the peaceful view.
    Relaxing on the porch is a well-earned treat. They spent nearly every weekend since 2011 restoring this five-bedroom cottage. After salvaging everything possible, they went to work winterizing and shoring up the sun porch and the upstairs.  
    Bedroom beams reinforcing the roof came from a Lebanon lumber company. Doors are refinished originals or salvaged from Habitat for Humanity.  Wavy glass windows and Philadelphia beadboard are original.  The Travitzes installed the tray ceiling above the cast iron bed -- also a relic of the home.  One room boasts tiled porcelain floors to resist the inevitable dampness that comes with a cottage in the woods.  

The Innkeepers' Cottage Seeking a retreat not far from their Ephrata home and business, innkeepers David and Bonnie Harvey discovered this cottage two years ago. Built in 1896 on a double lot, it now has a renovated dining room, kitchen with raised ceilings, new wiring, a door frame and new flooring in the upstairs bathroom -- all done by David, a retired engineer. The Harveys call it the "new house," since their full-time residence was built a century earlier.
   A special accent piece the couple acquired at an antique shop is a stained glass window in the bathroom. They searched for two years to find a window that was the perfect size. The stained glass theme carries throughout the home, with a special custom-made stained glass front window, crafted in 2007 by the late Dale Grundon, a legendary Mt. Gretna stained glass artist.
Woods in the Woods
    In early 2000, David and Susan Wood began revitalizing this property on the L-shaped footprint of a 1960s era home. This provided endless opportunities for creating a new contemporary home with bamboo floors, plentiful windows and skylights, an open floor plan, a spacious outdoor pool (recently converted to salt water), and a glass block shower in the master bath. Mt. Gretna resident John Balmer designed and built the home. Interior decorator Glin Atkinson, also of Mt. Gretna, suggested attractive color schemes. A prominent feature is the built-in shelving that showcases David's collection of clocks and watches. During the summer, the saltwater pool, with poolside hammocks, is a favorite spot. Surrounding the pool are hostas -- so many hostas that the Woods suggest with a smile that the home might have been named "Hosta la Vista."

Renovations demand a d balance, with an imperative to keep the best of what's already there.
That was the challenge of retired environmental geologist Doug Lorenzen and Pam Bishop, a former environmental attorney, after they bought this 1904 home five years ago.   Bay windows that admit generous quantities of light into the master bedroom were a preservation "must." Beadboard ceilings made of authentic American chestnut -- a Mt. Gretna staple --were another priority. Then came new French doors with side lights in the living room, touches that accentuate a solid bamboo floor. Doug, also a home improvement contractor, did most of the work himself, everything from extending the home by seven feet to replacing wiring and plumbing. New granite floors accent the kitchen, and a deck out back overlooks neighboring Mt. Gretna Heights. 

    Also on tour are the Hall of Philosophy, several gardens and the home of the Mt. Gretna Historical Society. Although not generally known, the Hall of Philosophy was the original site of the Sarah Tyson Rorer Hall of Cookery, named for a Ladies' Home Journal domestic science editor who published 54 books on cooking and nutrition and was known as "the nation's cooking teacher." Ms. Rorer will be portrayed during the tour by Mt. Gretnan Kathy SnavelyCampmeeting resident Linda Campbell will appear as Ms. Rorer's contemporary, author Ann Hark, also a Ladies' Home Journal writer, who once owned a cottage overlooking the lake.
   The Hall of Philosophy will be among 12 tour stops, open as a Grab 'N Go café from 9:30 until 1:30, selling coffee, snacks and light lunch items.
    Tickets ($20 in advance, $25 day of the tour) are available through Gretna Music (717-361-1508), online at and through tour sponsor Brownstone Real Estate and als0 in: Lancaster County: All Stauffers markets; Lynden Gallery, Elizabethtown; and Yale Electric Supply in Lancaster;  Dauphin County: Yale Electric Supply, Harrisburg; Brownstone Real Estate, Hershey; and Stauffers Garden Centers in Hummelstown and Linglestown Cumberland County: Stauffers Garden Center, Mechanicsburg.  Lebanon County: Leitzel's Jewelry, Myerstown; Yale Electric Supply and Brownstone Real Estate, Lebanon (Quentin); Allen Theatre, Annville; and Gretna Emporium, Mt. Gretna and Stauffers Garden Center in Lebanon. Berks County: Progress Electric Supply, Wyomissing. 








Dorothy Kamm Whitman (1928 - 2013)

   WHEN she moved to Gettysburg six years ago to be closer to her son and daughter-in-law, she had been a Mt. Gretnan for 23 years. She and her husband, the late Aaron Whitman of Rexmont, moved to Valley Road in Timber Hills in 1984 when she retired as an elementary school teacher.
      After high school she had begun studies at Elizabethtown College in 1946 and then took time off in 1949 to get married. She subsequently enrolled at Lebanon Valley College, where in 1958 she earned her teaching degree. She taught in Chester County as well as in Cleona, Sunbury and Palmyra and also served as a roving teacher of gifted students in Schuylkill County during the 1970s and early 80s.
     An avid bridge player and bird watcher, Dorothy Whitman became a Winterite, a member of Mt. Gretna's second Red Hat Society and a volunteer tutor to those studying for their American citizenship exams. She was also admired by neighbors for her kitchen specialties, including meatloaf, spring peas and a sumptuous strawberry shortcake. 
     An obituary writer notes that as a lifelong Democrat, her proudest moment came in 2008 when, at age 80, she cast her vote for Barack Obama from a hospital bed.

Edward L. Philips (1937-2013)

   MODEST concerning his achievements both as a scholar and educator, including his later accomplishments as the superintendent of what would become a pace-setting school district in Lebanon County, Ed Philips' legacy was largely unknown to many of his close neighbors in Mt. Gretna.
   After a distinguished career in education, he retired to Mt. Gretna and was welcomed as a regular around the often spirited breakfast table conversations at the pizzeria on Saturday mornings, appreciated for his work as the fire company's financial mentor and admired for his contributions to other organizations of which he was a part. In every instance, he imparted a friendly touch, a guiding hand and somehow managed to strengthen the  foundations of every one of them, leaving them better than before he came.

   On most Saturdays, after breakfast with friends, he dashed off to the golf course where, having taken up the game late in life when retirement finally permitted him to do so, his proudest achievement was winning the 2012 Senior Golf Handicap championship at the age of 75. He repeated that accomplishment this year, assuring that his name as a champion would appear in gold lettering on the Lebanon Country Club board of champions not once but twice. His broad smile as he reflected on that achievement left no doubt that, coming as it did in his final days, it ranked among his most satisfying accomplishments. But it was only a smile, never a boast.

   As friends commented afterward, it was therefore fitting that on the last day of his life he found his way out to the first tee on a sun-streaked Saturday morning. He suddenly collapsed and died in the company of friends and on the grounds that he loved, where he had once been the club president. Leadership was a role that came naturally to him, naturally but quietly. He led by example, always with an empathetic understanding of others and an optimistic outlook that engendered goodwill among everyone whose lives he touched.

   He once shared advice he had received from a Lebanon businessman who had been on the committee that selected him for the post of superintendent of the Cornwall-Lebanon School District, a position he held 14 years. "When you're out in the community, at the grocery store or in church, you will  be among many people, most of whom you may not recognize" he counseled Ed. "But they will know who you are." 

    Dr. Philips (as he was known to teachers, parents and his professional colleagues) never forgot that advice. With the bearing of a gentleman who bore his responsibilities with dignity and modesty, he left the legacy of a good example. An official obituary appears online.

Rhoda S. Gibble (1924 - 2013)

   ONLY a few years ago, and indeed for many years, no day was truly complete without the reassuring glimpse of an elderly but seemingly omnipresent figure making her customary walks through the streets of Mt. Gretna. Always in motion-- her Campmeeting cottage was named "Never Inn" -- the familiar presence brought with her a quiet, calming, a virtual certainty that no matter how turbulent the stock market or how unnerving the clash of global events, the world nevertheless was unfolding exactly as it should.  
   She made regular trips into Lebanon to pick up Shuey's Pretzels, into Lititz for Wilbur chocolates, and usually on Tuesdays to Roots Country Market in Manheim where she always found special treats to bring back to her friends. Other days she was off to the Manheim Auto Auction where, in her retirement years, she drove the chase car until age 86.
   Although known to everyone, it was likely that among those who knew her best was a young girl who shared something special: a birthday. Every year, Alisa Pitt and Rhoda looked forward to the date together. Older woman and youthful, energetic girl who would one day realize her dream to become a professional equestrian trainer, they cherished that annual celebration. It bound them together and carried Alisa from childhood into adulthood and Rhoda serenely into old age. "She came into our family when Alisa was 8 months old," says Marla Pitt. "She became like a grandmother."  
   Embedded in the fabric of Mt. Gretna life and rooted in the memories of those whose lives she touched, Rhoda Gibble died May 26 at age 89. Her official obituary appears

Robert G. Parr (1927 - 2013)

   "WE ARE fast losing our leaders," remarked a man who figures among Mt. Getna's leading citizens and holds vivid memories about the community's early days. Despite daily demands that still require him to lift boxes, clear brush and tackle thorny mechanical problems that can arise at the century-old Jigger Shop, Chuck Allwein paused recently to reflect wistfully on the steady toll of passing years and ascending age. He ticked them off one by one: former mayor Dave Long,  former water authority president John Loehr, councilmen Dale Grundon and John Hambright. . . "Where will our future leaders come from," he wondered aloud upon learning of Bob Parr's death.      

   Bob Parr, perhaps little known to all but a few people who now live here, left vivid memories among those who worked alongside him on the borough council, at the water authority (which now serves all three communities south of Route 117), in the Pennsylvania Chautauqua and other places that called for his talents, business experience and intellect.

    He and his wife of nearly half a century, Barbara, had lived in the home overlooking the lake that is now the residence of La Cigale owners Nancy and John Mitchell. The Parrs enjoyed it for many years before they reluctantly returned to Lebanon. Three decades later, his contributions to the community they loved remain manifest. An official obituary appears online.


Samuel F. "Pete" Light, Jr. (1923 - 2013)

   IT IS HARD to imagine a time when, if the lights suddenly went out because of yet another Mt. Gretna power failure, nobody much noticed. Yet when they were youngsters, Pete Light and his sister (Patricia Light Attwood), accustomed to winters when snow piled up higher than the windowsills of their parents' tiny Chautauqua cottage, took it in stride.
    In a world where lighting and warmth depended not on electrical power but on families gathered around kerosene lanterns and wood-burning stoves -- with only two street lights in town (one opposite the post office, another at the tennis courts) -- it was just another adventuresome day growing up in Mt. Gretna.
     When Pete died last month in his 89th year, he and Pat (who died five years earlier) had piled high a rich trove of Mt. Gretna memories. They lived here perhaps more years than anyone.  
     A graduate of Lebanon High School during World War II, he served in the Naval Reserve as an undergraduate at Bucknell University and was later called to active duty. Afterwards, he studied dentistry at the University of Pennsylvania and was again called to active duty in the Korean War, when he served stateside as a Marine officer.  
      He practiced dentistry in Lebanon until 1986, when he retired and began to devote  nearly all his time to nature. Deer, turkey buzzards and other wildlife surrounded the log home he and Gloria had built atop Conewago Hill, overlooking a site once occupied by the 125-room Conewago Hotel (which Pete had helped his father demolish in 1940, nearly a decade after it had closed for the last time).   
   In retirement, feeding deer became his passion. "They were here before we were," he would say. During the winters, he fed them hundreds of corn cobs, brought in on huge flatbed trucks. After Gloria died, except for faithful, almost daily visits by his son, his days were spent mostly in solitary pursuits.
   Throughout his life, however, he had been active in half a dozen Masonic organizations. He was also president of the Lions Club, a trustee of the Mt. Gretna United Methodist Church, active with the Mt. Gretna Volunteer Fire Company, and for 27 years a trustee of the Lebanon County Vo-Tech authority.
     Devoted to Gloria, who shared his love of their hillside home, he followed a weekly ritual after her death in 2007 and placed flowers on her grave every Friday. Afterward, as he had for 40 years, he would stop by the Hideaway for dinner and a single draft beer with his chums.
     Because he was accustomed to power failures, it never seemed to bother him even in modern times when the lights flickered and then lapsed into total darkness. Something about this always busy man in his late 80s, steering a small snowplow, a cigar clenched tightly between his teeth on blustery winter days, reminded neighbors that for Dr. Pete Light, the lights would never really go out.  An official obituary appears




and things
to post on
the fridge.


  TENNIS anyone? Hurry and you can catch the finals at the annual Mt. Gretna Men's Club Tournament, winding up this weekend. Food, friends and some of the area's top players. "I'm excited. We have our largest draw in years with 46 singles players and 20 doubles teams," says tournament organizer Mike Rohrbach. The completion began July 27 and runs through Friday, Aug. 2 (with rain date and tournament extension finals possible Aug. 3 and 4) at the Mt. Gretna Men's Club along Route 117, opposite the lake.

First Friday Art Walk, 5 to 9 pm. Artists throughout Mt. Gretna display their works at The Gallery at La Cigale, Penn Realty, Hickey Architects,  Le Sorelle Porch 'n Pantry, the Timbers Restaurant, and 3Summer Arts Studio. 
   The La Cigale Studio wine and music reception kicks off an 11-artists' exhibit that runs the entire month, with photography, wildlife oil paintings, pen & ink sketches, pottery, stoneware clay, acrylic on wood, watermedia and acrylic on canvas.
   The Timbers Trio, with vocalist Nicole Roberts, performs at The Timbers Restaurant 5:30-7:45 pm, with portrait art and jewels on display, too.

The Wizard of Oz, final matinee and evening performance at the Playouse, 2 and 7:30 pm.

"Slow Down!  You're Going Too Fast!"  Video presentation by Fred Habegger shows snow geese, butterflies, woodpeckers, and snow falls in slow motion.  1 pm at the Gov. Dick Nature Center atop Pinch Road.

Handbell Festival at the Tabernacle, 7 pm.

Anna Polonsky & Friends -- "Not to be missed," say Gretna Music insiders. 7:30 pm

Music on the Porch.  Bluegrass and old country music jam. 1-4 pm at the Nature Center.

Pennsylvania Flute Choir, at the Tabernacle, 7 pm.

Damsels and Dragons. An illustrated talk on the life cycle, flight capabilities and role of dragonflies in ecology. 6:30 p.m. at the Nature Center.

Chautauqua Birthday Party, Hall of Philosophy, 7:30 pm
The Capitol Steps, at the Playhouse. A special Gretna Music presentation, 7:30 pm

Bare Foot Organics manager Laurie Crawford brings fresh produce, grass fed beef and organic eggs to Mt. Gretna every weekend at La Cigale. "We grow our food slowly," she says, "the way it's meant to be prepared and eaten."

Beekeeper Matt Libhart shares facts about honeybees and their life cycle. 10:30 am at the Nature Center.
Fitness Hike, a fast-paced 6- to 8-mile hike, starting 8 am at the Nature Center.

Mennonite Children's Choir, at the Tabernacle, 7 pm.

Campmeeting Illumination Saturday, 9 pm

Susquehanna Chorale, Sunday at the Tabernacle 7 pm

Mt. Gretna Outdoor Art Show, 9 am to 6 pm Saturday, til 5 pm Sunday:



10:00 - 11:30 MOCKING BIRD Acoustic Duo, classic & contemporary pop/folk


12:00 - 1:30 COPPER SKY Acoustic Duo

Coming up on their own 58th wedding anniversary, Mary and Peter Hernley find weddings have suddenly become a big part of their flower business. Daughter Marci Baum, one of six children, creates what many consider world-class sticky buns--and usually weekend sell-outs.


2:00 - 3:30 JETT PRESCOTT Singer/songwriter, piano, acoustic guitar, vocals: retro influences with an Indie twist


4:00 - 5:30 THE REESE PROJECT Classical, jazz, Irish/Celtic & original with flutes, cello, piano and drums   



12:00 - 1:30 CARMITCHELL SISTERS Acoustic Duo, Classic, contemporary & original pop/folk


2:00 - 3:30 NEW WORLD PARADE (with Andy Roberts) Original jazz/pop, classic and standard jazz/pop



The Dale Grundon Memorial Hike to the Cardinal Flowers, led by Sid Hostetter; starts from the Post Office, 10 am. 


Sunrise Hike, 6 miles, starting at the Nature Center at 6:30 am. (Register by Aug. 23).

QuintEssentially Brass at the Tabernacle, 7 pm

Low Maintenance Fall Perennial Gardening, Hall of Philosophy, 7:30 pm


Check the Arts Council calendar:

Mt. Gretna's new online calendar, at, is a service of the Mt. Gretna Arts Council.  

Email listings and updates to Jennifer Veser Besse at    .





   AS MOST readers probably have learned since it started in 2001, this community newsletter is merely a retirement hobby -- like golf, woodworking, or model airplanes might be for others. It has no attachment to any particular group or organization nor any political or commercial ax to grind (although I do have a special spot in my heart for the volunteer fire department and for people who contribute to the artistic atmosphere here).       
    It produces no income but provides immense personal satisfaction, mainly because it keeps me in touch with interesting, talented and thoughtful people, many of whom have come to be good friends. And as I get older, I am convinced: nothing is more important than friends.  

   I don't try to cover everything. For one thing, that would exhaust me. For another, some topics are better left to daily newspapers, with greater skills and resources.    
   Generally speaking, I try to cover things that people have not already read. Yet since the majority of my readers live outside Mt. Gretna, I sometimes summarize reports of local newspapers. I also depend on my readers to tell me about things that happen to present and former Mt. Gretnans, including obituary notices.  

   In preparing each issue, I sometimes imagine a reader sitting there early in the morning with a cup of coffee in hand, not wishing to be jarred by yet another sensational report about some calamity somewhere in the world. Nor is my imaginary reader looking to be preached to.
   I like the example set by the late Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas, who felt listeners invited him into their homes.
   I also think sometimes about Regis Philbin, the television legend who was asked why people watched his show. "They tell me it makes them feel good," he said.   
    Nothing wrong with that for a small community newsletter, I think. Bad news isn't my cup of tea. I leave that to others. 

   I strive to get this newsletter out on the first day of each month unless I'm traveling, ailing or attending to personal duties that sometimes must take a higher priority.    

   It is impossible to adequately thank the many people who help me gather the news, take the photos, then edit, fact-check and proofread this letter. They include people with special skills and in-depth knowledge of Mt. Gretna who live both here as well as in New York City, Camp Hill, Pa. and St. Paul, Minn. Regardless of where they live, all are invaluable in the production of this newsletter. 

   I send this letter by e-mail to anyone who asks, without charge and with no expectation of anything other than a gentle nudge when I err. It is not available by U.S. mail, although many readers kindly print copies and mail them to friends and relatives who don't have computers.

    If you have difficulty reading or printing the letter, please click on the online version -- -- which appears through the courtesy of friends at Gretna Computers. 

   The online archive, I'm told, sometimes proves helpful to people who plan to move here. I'm happy to help them discover more about this community, which the late Marlin Seiders once called, "not a place, but a spirit."

   With best wishes for health and happiness,


   Roger Groce 


P.S. My privacy policy is straightforward: E-mail addresses on The Mt. Gretna Newsletter

mailing list are not sold, rented, traded or intentionally shared with anyone, ever. Therefore I cannot respond favorably to readers who sometimes ask me for the address of another subscriber.