The Harry Packer Mansion has made frequent appearances in the paintings of local artist, Mary Kocher, so it was only fitting that the local landmark be the setting for Kocher to sign copies of a book featuring her work.

Kocher has lived in Palmerton for 68 of her 91 years and has spent most of that time chronicling the history of the region in her paintings. Many of her paintings depict the historic buildings found in Jim Thorpe.

Dr. Larry Perine and his wife Johanna, who reside at Aviano AFB, in Aviano, Italy were on hand to surprise their old friend. Perine and his wife became friends with Kocher when she taught Johanna how to paint back in the 1970s. Perine referred to himself as the "son she never had," but Kocher quickly corrected him and said, "You mean my son."

"Mary is what I would call an inspiration," said Perine. "She has innate talent, unstoppable energy and this is the talent she passed on to my wife. She believes in capturing the history of what she paints. She tells the story."

Another longtime friend from Allentown, Sandy Alleman, also attended the book signing. Alleman met Kocher at an art lesson at the Perines' home.

"She is such a wonderful lady and so kind," said Alleman.

Another friend of Kocher's is responsible for the book becoming a reality. Connie Reinhart refuses to take credit for the it, even though it is she and her husband Bob who assembled the book into what it is today.

"It really was Mary's idea" said Reinhart. "She told me she wanted something more to pass on to her daughter and her granddaughter. She did not have pictures of all her paintings; she wanted some sort of collection."

Reinhart was able to locate many of Kocher's works, since most of her paintings are collected by local businesses and residents. Reinhart and her husband worked together to assemble all of the pictures. They got the idea to actually "publish" the book using an online service called Winkflash.

Kocher was thrilled with the finished product and the Reinharts had additional copies printed.

The idea for the book signing came from Cindy Gasper, who had commissioned a work from Kocher when her two eldest daughters were children. The finished product is a portrait of the Harry Packer Mansion with the two girls standing in front. Gasper had the original on display during the book signing.

Gasper is the vice president of a recently-created civic organization known as the Claddagh Keepers. Gasper and two of her friends, Amy Lilick and Lorraine Paules, were very involved in the local chapter of the United Way. They believe very strongly in giving back to the community using charitable acts.

"The Claddagh stands for love, loyalty and friendship, and that is what we want our little group to stand for too," said Gasper.

This was the first event put together by the group which was formed last month. They already grown to almost 40 members. Their first charitable event is scheduled for Thanksgiving eve, when the group will be collecting nonperishable food items and canned goods at the West End Saloon in Palmerton after 5 p.m. on Nov. 21.

"We will be counting heavily on local businesses to help sponsor our events," said Gasper. "We could not have pulled off tonight without the gracious generosity of Pat Handwerk, owner of the Harry Packer Mansion Bed and Breakfast. Not only did Pat invite us into her beautiful mansion, she and her son Taylor and his fiancée, Kristen, provided the hors d'oeuvres."

Anyone interested in obtaining a copy of the book of Kocher's paintings can contact Reinhart at bcrein@ptd.net [2].