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Celebration marks kickoff of 100th anniversary of Palmerton's incorporation

  • ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Sue Steigerwalt of the Palmerton Area Chamber of Commerce presented a citation to Peter Kern.
    ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Sue Steigerwalt of the Palmerton Area Chamber of Commerce presented a citation to Peter Kern.
Published September 29. 2011 05:01PM

On Sept. 20 members of the Palmerton business community, Palmerton Area Historical Society and individuals met at Blue Ridge Country Club for a kickoff dinner for Palmerton's 100th anniversary.

Palmerton, begun in 1898 by New Jersey Zinc Company, was incorporated in 1912 and will be officially 100 years old in October 2012. The Society was host for the event.

People arrived before the 6 p.m. social hour and Peter Kern said at 7 p.m. that it was the only social hour that took two hours. As master of ceremonies, he said he was told by Mrs. (Betsy) Burnhauser not to forget things, so he had three pages of notes.

He said the town was wearing bright, new banners as part of the kickoff.

He thanked all 31 sponsors, noting especially Horsehead Corporation, a centennial sponsor and First National Bank, a diamond sponsor.

All the sponsors are also people who have given generously to Palmerton Area Historical Society events, said Kern.

Paula Zielenka had donated a painting of the Inn of William Stoddard to the Society. Only a quarter of the tickets had been sold, but before the evening was over they were all sold and the winner was Louise Zatoris.

He thanked the volunteers of the Society, saying they work behind the scenes but do a wonderful job with the Heritage Center, Little White Church, Kibler's school and the archives in the Neighborhood House (municipal building). "They keep history alive," Kern said.

In introducing the speaker he said he is asked, "Why the director of an art museum?"

He said the Allentown Art Museum is a vital part of the Lehigh Valley and it now has two new faces - a new facade and new president, J. Brooks Joyner.

"We should recognize there are great opportunities in the Lehigh Valley," Kern said.

Joyner served with distinction in several western museums. His family is in Baltimore and it felt like coming home when he returned to the East.

He said Joslyn, Neb., has one of the largest collections of the works of Karl Bodmer who traveled extensively in this country as the artist accompanying Philip Maximilian, the Prince of Wied-Neuwied of Germany. The Prince led two major scientific expeditions to the New World in 1832-34, following much the same path Lewis and Clark had taken. They even traveled to the Palmerton area. In one of his writings he said, "In the Blue Mountains the moon showed us Lehigh Gap." At the time they were looking for the Thomas Craig Inn where they planned to stay. Bodmer's pictures include realistic paintings of Indians and nature.

Joyner hopes to be able to bring an exhibit of the Bodmer paintings for a showing at the museum.

Realism painters looked outward but it was changing and, with modernism, they began looking inward. Some things he does not consider worthy of exhibiting such as a pile of used tires. He said he was not being critical of modern art but was using it for comparison.

He had some exciting news about the newly renovated museum, scheduled to reopen Oct. 14 with an exhibit, "Shared Treasures: The Legacy of Samuel H. Kress."

In 1934, Walter Emerson Baum, an artist and founder of the Baum School of Art, founded the Allentown Art Gallery. The city of Allentown gave the museum a permanent home in a Federal-style two-story house in the Rose Garden in Allentown's Cedar Park. In 1959 Samuel H. Kress, the Five and Dime founder, offered him 60 renaissance and baroque paintings but Baum had to move the museum to a building with integrity.

The site chosen was the unused First Presbyterian Church on Fifth Street. There have been several renovations, but the latest includes a 10,000 sq. ft. expansion and a two-story glass and steel front with hints of coral, beige, mint and brown. It makes the lobby bright.

The Museum will officially celebrate its Grand Reopening with "Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present," which will run from February 11 to May 13, 2012. Also coming in 2012 will be a showing of the early works of artist Franz Kline, a graduate of Lehighton High School, featuring some paintings of Lehighton and Palmerton.

After Joyner's remarks, Sue Steigerwalt from the Palmerton Area Chamber of Commerce said she had an award for a true Palmertonian-Peter Kern.

Steigerwalt said great pride is taken in acknowledging a citizen for his contribution to the community. He received his Bachelor of Chemical Engineering with Highest Honors from the Pratt Institute of Brooklyn, New York in 1962, his M.A. in Mathematics (Chemical Engineering Minor) from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1965 and he became a Pennsylvania licensed professional engineer. He worked for the New Jersey Zinc Company from 1965 - 1988 in various positions in Research and Development, leaving as senior vice president of Marketing and Technology. He was then president and CEO of the Palmerton Hospital from 1988-2000 and from 2000-2005, president of the Palmerton Hospital Foundation. He has been serving as an engineering consultant from 2006 to the present.

His commitment to community was noted by the list of organizations he has served on over the years: 1979-88, Palmerton Hospital Board of Trustees, (Chairman 1986-1988); 1985-93, Pleasant Valley School District Board of Education, (President -1991-93); 1989-95, Horsehead Community Development Fund Board of Directors; 1993-present, Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries, Allentown; 1996-99, Hospital & Healthcare Association of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, Board of Trustees; 1999-2009, Pleasant Valley Education Foundation, President Board of Directors; 1993 to present, Palmerton Area Chamber of Commerce

President, Board of Directors; 2004 to present, Carbon County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors (Chairman 2004-2008); 2009 to present, Allentown Symphony Association, Board of Directors, Executive Committee, Artistic Planning, Finance, and Governance Committees; 2009 Allentown Art Museum, Allentown Ad Hoc Task Force.

Other community service includes at present: a volunteer at the Palmerton Area Historical Society; Vice-Chairman of Carbon County Partners for Progress, (a 501(c)(3) visioning organization whose role it is to define social, economic, educational, and infrastructure needs of the county); and prior membership on the Board of the American Lung Association of the Lehigh Valley,

Steigerwalt then read a citation from Rep. Doyle Heffley.

Rodger Danielson, Palmerton borough manager, said it was tough keeping it a secret because the borough has to do everything in public. He said he had to cut four pages of material down to the one that would fit in the citation. Kern was given a citation for his continuing dedication to the community.

A letter from Palmerton's Mayor Brad Doll thanked him for a life of service, most of which was spent on local activities.

Jane Borbe, Society president, said Kern has advised and promoted the historical society. "Palmerton Area Historical Society wishes to acknowledge his service to the community."

Present at the dinner was his wife of 49 years, Carol, the director of the Western Pocono Community Library in Brodheadsville, their two sons, Keith and Carl, Carl's wife, Lisa, their son, Jacob, and their daughter, Karyn Pinter, her husband Martin and their daughter, Julia. Also in attendance were Peter's brothers, Paul of Baiting Hollow and Philip of Howard Beach New York.

Kern said he is never at a loss for words but was that night. "This was not my idea. I'd have taken a flight somewhere to avoid it. It's a lot more fun doing this for other people. How can I live up to this?"

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