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Palmerton centennial celebration ends

  • ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS The speaker for the centennial closing banquet was George Duell.
    ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS The speaker for the centennial closing banquet was George Duell.
Published October 02. 2012 05:01PM

The years 1912 to 2012 encompass the 100 years that Palmerton was incorporated as a borough. On behalf of the Palmerton Area Historical Society, Peter Kern welcomed people to the centennial celebration on Sept. 25 at Blue Ridge Country Club.

"We opened here a year ago and had many events. It's been very busy, very successful. We opened the time capsule and found Mother Nature had done her thing to the contents. Things are being dried off and we hope to have them on display in another month. Some may be returned to the people who donated them," Kern said.

He said 100 years ago Palmerton was just beginning. Immigrants were coming to New York and the New Jersey Zinc Company recruited them. They had a strong work ethic that they instilled into their children and grandchildren, but we see change which will continue. Some of you will get close to celebrating the bicentennial.

"I hope we'll all give blessings for the many things we have received. Have a good dinner," Kern said.

He mentioned the two major sponsors whose names had been left out of the program book: On the highest level, the diamond, was Pencor and Blue Mountain Health Systems provided the second largest donation - the silver.

He said he did not know how to introduce the speaker, George Duell. "Those who were under his influence know what I am talking about."

Duell said last Saturday he talked to 200 troops just back from Afghanistan. It was an honor to talk to them.

He said if he gathered notes about how important Palmerton was he'd have a two-inch stack and he couldn't say all that. If you talk about people you always forget about someone.

My first experience is that Palmerton is about the people. Business and industry are great but it's the people of Palmerton who made it successful. It can be business people or haluski makers at church or people in the mills.

He came to Palmerton when William Naratil, a fellow student at Kutztown College, invited him. They went to the Knotty Pine Bar. He said his mother worked at Segal's by the Bridge, a downtown department store.

He drew laughter when he said he wanted to make it clear that they had milk and cookies at the bar because some of his former students were in the audience.

Then, there was Steve Honzo. He refereed basketball. The Zinc Company let him out of work to referee. Duell was teaching at Southern Lehigh at the time.

In 1978 Duell was told he was ready for a principalship. A school in the coal regions offered him one but someone else suggested he apply in Palmerton which needed a new principal. Carl Hesse, the superintendent came for the interview. The school had just lost its accreditation.

"I faced that challenge. I accepted and we worked through the challenges," said Duell. There was a good staff and a good community. He worked in Palmerton 21 years until he retired.

He met Willard Steigerwalt, the police chief who helped young people. "This guy was pretty smart. I was in the Army Reserve and found he was a criminal investigator in the Reserves.

After Duell retired, 9/11 occurred. He was contacted to come back to the Department of Defense for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which had more National Guardsmen and Reserves than any other state.

Brigadier General Rhett Hernandez, a Palmerton resident, left for Iraq, it was the reason for Duell to get involved in the Walking Shoes program. By the fourth year the group sent 6,000 pairs of shoes.

Command Sergeant Major Dan Dailey helped with that project.

Duell overheard a lady say her son was in Iraq. He called to talk to the man and the man told his general his high school principal was calling to talk to him.

"I could go around this room and pick out people who have done a lot of good things in Palmerton. One who does a lot quietly is my wife Peggy," said Duell. He named some of the many things she is involved with.

Dick Nothstein is involved with veterans' groups. He organized a group and took them to Washington D.C. He has worked toward putting a Veterans Monument in the borough park. The people of Palmerton want to remember those who have served.

"I'm aware of all your contributions. When I put it all together, Palmerton is people for this 100 years and for the next 100 years. I look forward to many more years with you," said Duell

"It always is people, not organizations. For the 125th, a speaker up here will say George Duell influenced me," said Kern.

Dale Freudenberger had an official presentation to make to Kern. It was material for the nomination of Palmerton as a National Historic District.

Next week we'll be going to Harrisburg for the hearing. Palmerton is very unique in that it is the only nomination in the state for a company town. The next step will be in Washington D.C. with a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, said Freudenberger.

Cindy Gasper was instrumental in preparing the nomination and the application for the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission grant, he said. The Palmerton Area Historic Society has followed the nomination through its birth as an idea to Washington DC.

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