During this week's Lehighton Borough Council meeting, members of the Lehighton Class of 1964 requested that the Borough Annex Building be renamed in honor of PFC Clyde Richard Houser, a member of the Class of 1964 and the first Lehighton graduate killed in combat in Vietnam.
"We were the last class to graduate from the old high school," which is now the Borough Annex, said class representative Dennis Yenser. "Instead of being called the Lehighton Borough Annex, we would call it the Clyde Richard Houser building. Renaming our old high school after Clyde Houser would be a great way to honor his ultimate sacrifice."
The idea first began in 2004, when class member Lester Miller wrote a letter to borough council requesting the name change. Miller mentioned the tribute again when the Class of 1964 began preparations for its 50th reunion, which will take place in 2014.
Houser is one of four Lehighton and 13 Carbon County military members who died during Vietnam. The class would create a wall of honor recognizing the four Lehighton military members, including Houser, SP4 Leon Delbert Eckhart, Lance Corporal Ronald Steward Henry Christman, and SP4 Charles Richard Jones.
"Our class members have contacted the families of the four soldiers. The family members have all written letters and said that they are in support of it," said Yenser. "We seem to have some wide-ranging support," he added, noting that the Carbon County Commissioners, director of the Carbon County VA, current and past faculty, and members of the school board.
He noted that several other buildings and roads are named after military veterans, including the Shoemaker-Haydt American Legion Post and Stanley Hoffman Boulevard.
"We were looking for something to do for the Vietnam era veterans. This is a building that Clyde attended high school in. We thought it was an appropriate venue," he said.
He said that a few members of the community have argued that the building should be named after an active member of the community, perhaps someone still alive or recently deceased.
"Some people have said that they didn't do a lot for the community. They thought that there were more important people to honor. But they didn't have a chance," he said, noting that the four men died between the age of 19 and 21. "They did what their country asked them to do, and they lost their life. What else could they do? Now is the time, 44 years later, to be accountable to them for the sacrifice they made."
He added that the Class of 1964 would be responsible for the cost of changing the building signs, at no cost to the borough or taxpayers. They would also gather the information and pay for costs to create a wall of honor.
Borough President Grant Hunsicker asked about the businesses in the annex who might be affected by the change. The annex now serves as office and business space. Yenser noted that the current occupants include a karate academy and state Rep. Doyle Heffley, and that both support the name change.
Hunsicker requested that the final name include the title "Lehighton Borough Annex," and asked council members if it would be acceptable for the class to continue its research and plans for renaming the building.
Council member Scott Rehrig made a motion to allow the class to continue its plans, seconded by John Kreitz. The motion passed unanimously. The final name will need to be approved by borough council, as will any designs for a new sign.
"I would like to thank each and every one of you for being so patriotic," said Hunsicker.
"As a veteran, I'd like to say thank you," added Rehrig.
Yenser thanked the council and noted that the class will move forward with additional research on the Vietnam causalities from Lehighton.
We still have quite a bit of research to do, but we wanted to get approval," he said. "We do welcome the council's input, and the public's input, and realize that we have to get final approval from borough council. We're trying to work it out and make everybody happy. We're not trying to exclude anybody."
The Lehighton Borough Annex served as the Lehighton High School until 1964, when a new high school (the current Lehighton Middle School) opened. The annex was also used as Lehighton's junior high until the 1990s.