"Sit And Talk Awhile." That's the invitation on a bench along the Lehigh Gorge Trail-at a half mile marker above the Glen Onoko trail head.
Engraved on a granite bench are the words, "To Dad: Bernie Kuhla, U.S. Navy 1951 - 1955, Sit And Talk Awhile, Daughter Karen, Donated to DCNR."
"I do a lot of biking on the Lehigh Gorge Trail," said Bernie Kuhla of Jim Thorpe. "I'm always talking to people. If I kept a diary of all the people I met, I'd probably have a couple of diaries filled."
"My daughter knew this," Kuhla continued. "So she thought she'd like to put something in memory of me but she'd like to do that now so I could enjoy it. She came up with the idea of a bench."
"What would you like to put on the bench?" Kuhla asked his daughter, Karen.
She suggested, "Sit and talk awhile."
If you happen upon the bench, please don't call his wife. She's been fielding calls ever since the bench went in. "It doesn't say, 'In Memory Of,'" Kuhla notes. "It says, to Dad. People are calling my wife and asking her - we saw his bench. What happened to your husband? Did he pass away?"
Well, the 77-year-old Bernie Kuhla is alive, well and still enjoys bicycling along the Lehigh Gorge Trail. When he was not working, he'd bicycle four times-a-week, often going upwards of 20 miles from Rockport to White Haven and back.
He decided to put the bench at the half mile marker from the Glen Onoko Trailhead, not for himself, but for his friends.
"A lot of my friends are older than I am, up around 84-years-old," Kuhla said. "They do walk here and they only can walk so far and there's no place for them to rest in the first mile.They suggested that I put it at the half mile so they could rest."
The project started about two years ago. After Karen offered the bench, Bernie was tasked with its execution. He looked at wooden and concrete benches. Then he visited Walters Monuments in Summit Hill. He liked that the wording could be engraved into the granite, eliminating the need for a separate bronze plaque.
Kuhla contacted Hickory Run State Park and offered to donate the bench and told them the details and the proposed location. "They said, 'No problem,'" Kuhla said. "They said it was OK as long as it was not blocking traffic."
After serving in the Navy from 1951 to 1954, Kulha joined the CIA where in worked in Eastern Europe. He retired from the Agency in 1986 and was rehired on a contract basis through 1991. Since leaving the CIA, Kuhla has worked as a bank courier, and currently helps take care of an estate near Hickory Run State Park.
In his free time, Kuhla returns to the Lehigh Gorge Trail-his favorite place to walk-and sit and talk awhile on his bench.