Bucks County Herald

Charles Meredith:

Losses to the “Greatest Generation”

Dear Friends,

Good morning. A few weeks ago, two from the “Greatest Generation” left this world for the next. The first was Herman Silverman, our Doylestown friend who died at 97 … just three years shy of his 100th birthday, and Marshall Wampole, the Quakertown native who died at 90. We’ll start with Marshall Wampole.

Marshall was a veteran of World War II. He operated the sales and repairs of his lawn care business for more than 50 years. Our children loved the display of Santa and four reindeer, which he installed each year on the roof of his shop at 11th and W. Broad St. in Quakertown.

About 20 years ago, as the Christmas season approached, I noticed that the display was not on his roof. Marshall explained that he was too old to scramble about on its slippery surface. I told him that because I was much younger and firm of foot, I’d help.

Together, we tottered up the rickety-hinged steps leading to his roof. I hung fast to his belt as Marshall leaned out over the edge of his building and installed Santa and his reindeer (including Rudolph, of course).

When Marshall closed his business several years ago, he gave three of the four reindeer plus Santa to our daughter Anne. At Christmas, Santa sits on the roof of her home in Upper New York State. Anne told us that people from the Rhinebeck area drive by her house and gaze at the display … just like everyone used to do in Quakertown. The spirit of Marshall Wampole lives on.

Before I get to Herman Silverman, the man who was always in a hurry, let me acknowledge a memorial service the Quakertown High School Alumni Association held a few weeks ago. It honored three new members on its Wall of Fame. Gary Holland, a 1963 grad who died in Vietnam, Rear Adm. Valerie K. Huegel, a member of the Class of 1973, and musician Craig Thatcher, Class of 1974, were inducted Saturday.

The association also called attention to the 26 graduates who were killed in combat during World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf.

QHS lost C. Russell Leitch and Ivanhoe Metz in World War I; In World War II, Raymond F. Pfaff, Donald Eugene Hoffman, Alexander Evanko, Harry R. Maurer, John Rivers, Harry Swartz, Harry B. Booth, Russell Allison, Richard Schaffner, William T. Beck, Charles D. Benner, Alan R. Fluck, Philip Ingalls, Milford J. Rodgers, Ralph Beck, and Oswin Moll were killed. Clarence F. Rotenberger lost his life in the Korean War; Paul E. Gross, Aris K. Lielmanis, Donald R. Kemmerer, Gary D. Holland and John R. Millikan were killed in the Vietnam War; and Kristin E. Shemeley and Tamarra J. Johnson in the Persian Gulf War.

Of the 26 graduates who died in combat, 16 perished in World War II. Two of the 26 were women (in the Persian Gulf War). Wars always begin because of the actions of middle age to older aged men … but the deaths are almost always from the ranks of the young.

And finally, a salute to Herman Silverman, our friend who was always in a hurry. So much has been written about his passing. From the time Herman was in elementary school, he was always in sales. Whether it was selling newspapers on the streets of Philadelphia as a youngster, establishing Sylvan Landscaping Services and later Sylvan Pools, and real estate development … to selling the concept of a new museum named after his friend James Michener at the former Bucks County Prison. Herman Silverman was always the go-to guy.

I learned from his obituary that he was most proud of his 22-year membership in the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) where he used his business acumen to help develop the small, narrowly focused organization into one of America’s leading providers of capital for affordable housing. Four Pennsylvania governors named him to the PHFA.

“For his many projects and contributions, Herman received virtually every local award and recognition granted to prominent businesspeople and philanthropists in Central Bucks, including several each from the Michener Art Museum, Delaware Valley University, Mercer Museum, Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce, and Doylestown Hospital and the Village Improvement Association that owns the hospital,” his obit read.

When Mighty Betsy and I think of Herman Silverman, we see his smiling face. He was always positive and full of fun. We laughed out loud as we read passages from his book, “Memories from a Life Well Lived.” Published in 2015, the book has stories, photos, newspapers clippings, letters, awards and lists of events and accomplishments.

From his birth in a Camden, N.J., paddy wagon to receiving his honorary doctorate from Delaware Valley University, the tales of his first 95 years exhibit his directness, humor, financial intuition and deep love and devotion to his family, his Bucks County community and the causes he embraced that helped make other’ lives better.

Let me finish this column by focusing on a few episodes from his book, “Memories From a Life Well Lived.”

Herman actually wrote about his circumcision: “In 1920 (Herman’s birth year) Jewish baby boys had a ritual circumcision with a specialist called a ‘mohel,’ performing the surgery,” Herman began in Chapter 4. “I’m happy that my parents picked a good mohel,” he continued. “Accuracy is important. One wrong cut, and I could have grown up peeing sideways!”

Sincerely, Charles Meredith




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