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How life can change in the blink of an eye

Published October 26. 2013 09:00AM

Bill Graver was a happy fellow when he left the TIMES NEWS office on Friday, Oct. 11.

That morning, he had stopped in to see me; wanting me to do an article about his great-great grandfather who had fathered 33 children.

The great-great-grandfather, Nicholas C. Strohl, had lived in Towamensing Township. He had been married three times. His first two wives, Lydia and Sarah Weiss, were daughters of Charles Weiss, a Revolutionary War hero whose monument stands in the Lehighton and Weissport Parks.

He died on June 21, 1884 at the age of 82.

Graver, 83, lived in Franklin Township near Beltzville Lake. In fact, he mentioned that his was one of the farms taken when Beltzville Lake was constructed.

"I'm one of the guys the government stole his farm from," he said.

We spent a while chatting, with him telling me his life story. He mentioned that he and his wife, Perma, were divorced for 18 years but she had health problems so he was taking care of her.

"Don't write that," he said. "I'm not sure how the kids will take it."

I didn't know that Perma was sitting in the car, patiently waiting for him.

He had five children. They are James of Parryville, Harry of Little Gap, Perma Borger of Kunkletown, and two sons who are deceased, Billy and Michael.

Michael was the youngest and died at age 21 in September 1980 from injuries in a car accident.

Billy died on July 22 at the age of 58 when he suffered a massive stroke, which was slightly less than three months before his father would pass away.

The elderly gentleman and I had a great chat, mostly about his great-great grandfather. He was happy because I agreed to do a small article about Nicholas Strohl.

He said he asked another reporter one time about writing the piece, but that reporter declined.

Nicholas, whose father is said to have been Nicholas Sr., came from a pioneer family. The Strohl family originated with Peter Strohl, who came from Germany aboard the ship "Patience and Margaret" on Oct. 23, 1748 in Philadelphia.

It is apparent Peter settled in "Towamensing," then Northampton County, soon after his arrival in America.

The first federal census of 1790 lists the names of Nicholas, Daniel, and Peter Strohl.

A petition was filed with the State Assembly in 1816 requesting the formation of Carbon County, The county, however, was not organized until 1843.

On the first assessment roll in that year in Lower Towamensing Township, the name of Nicholas C. Strohl appeared, perhaps the father of the man who fathered the 33 children. He was listed as a farmer.

History also records that 246 acres was warranted to the pioneer Peter Strohl, later owned by Reuben Ziegenfus, Oscar and Jeremiah Kern, Wilson Muschlitz, John Craig, and the congregation of the Towamensing Church.

Several of Graver's relatives had served in the Civil War.

Graver had so much to talk about, and I would have enjoyed chatting with him again.

When he left, he mentioned how he was looking forward to seeing the article.

Moments later, things changed drastically.

There was an accident in front of the TIMES NEWS building. Graver had pulled onto Route 443 and his car was struck by another vehicle. Graver, Perma, and the driver of the other car all were injured.

Graver's injuries were the worst. He was taken by medical helicopter to St. Luke's Hospital in Fountain Hill. Sadly, he died two days later.

I haven't heard how badly Perma was hurt.

But I saw that she was mentioned in Graver's obituary as his ex-wife and companion. I'm sure he would have been thrilled to see that in print, too.

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