Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Valley loses three great transplants

Marlene Linny Fowler. Inez Donley. Priscilla Payne Hurd. Individually and together, these three women made an impact on the region that will be felt for generations. They made the Lehigh Valley their home, despite being born and raised in New York, Tennessee, and Illinois, respectively. And sadly for us and for their families, they each passed away recently.

They saw need and filled it, not just with money, as they are well known to have done. They rolled up their sleeves and spent time and energy to fix problems. They created new things, saved things from disappearing, helped renew things that were worth preserving. What was their secret? What did they have in common? True, they were educated. They each married and stayed married. They were often the “first” or “only” to take notice, take action, be asked. They surrounded themselves with like-minded people, who shared their passion for community service. They asked those people to support their causes and listened to others. They each had their own way of doing it, but each woman made her mark on the Lehigh Valley.

I have copied their obituaries here for you to marvel at. I ask you, transplants: who among you will be the next Linny Fowler? How could you live your life more like Inez Donley did? How did these women work, raise families, and still find time to support their adopted community, including many people who never knew their names? How could we each use the gifts that have been given to us to serve a greater good?

How can we carry on the good work they did in the Lehigh Valley, we transplants of the next generation? It’s a question I ask myself often, and I challenge you consider it, too

Marlene Fowler
Marlene Linny Fowler, beloved wife of Beall for over 51 years, mother of four, grandmother of 13, and angel to countless others, died at home on February 4, 2013 at the age of 73. Born in New York City, she was the daughter of the late Harold F. and Miriam (Dickey) Oberkotter. She grew up in Harrington Park, NJ and graduated from Skidmore College in 1961 with a BA in biology. Two weeks later she and Beall were married and she joined Beall in Rochester, NY where she worked in urology research and gave birth to their first two children. After they moved to Champaign-Urbana, IL, their third child arrived. At a time of great racial unrest, she helped to found a nursery school in the segregated African-American section of Champaign and helped to integrate it with their oldest child. In 1966, Linny and Beall moved to the Bethlehem area where he joined the faculty of Lehigh University. Soon she began volunteer work at Headstart in South Terrace where she began her lasting interactions and friendships with members of the Latino community, which became a lifelong passion. Other activities followed, including leading Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts, and teaching nursery school in Hellertown for several years. During this time their fourth child was born. She learned the art of stained glass and taught it in several venues, finally establishing a studio at the Banana Factory. After the untimely death of both of her parents in the early 1980s, she acquired the means to financially support her passion for justice, education, and the arts. For the rest of her life she was intimately involved in the cultural, educational, and human resources fabric of the Lehigh Valley; at one time she served on some 20 boards, and each organization benefitted from her generosity, passion, and wisdom. She founded the Lehigh Valley Coalition for Kids, through which a number of projects were supported. Several of the most significant projects that she fueled are the Banana Factory, SteelStacks, the Southside campus of NCC, and Camp Fowler of Valley Youth House. She supported programs and capital facilities at the Baum Art School, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown Art Museum, LCCC, Donegan School, ProJect of Easton, State Theatre, DaVinci Center, Habitat for Humanity, other institutions of education, from preschool through college, and of health care in the Lehigh Valley, the Bach Choir, the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Touchstone Theatre, Pennsylvania Youth Theatre, Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, the Hispanic Center of the Lehigh Valley, and many others. For this work she was honored numerous times, including honorary doctorates from Lehigh University and DeSales University, the Pennsylvania Governors Award for the Arts, the Edward and Inez Donley Award for Lifetime Advocacy for Children from Community Services for Children, Inc., and the Lehigh Valley Lifetime Achievement Award. While this work was going on in an organized fashion, she was privately and personally supporting the college expenses of countless young people, while mentoring them as well. And she was always ready to help those in need. But with all this activity, her first love was her family, especially her precious grandchildren. She had a heart of gold, was loved by all, and her goal was not only to give direct assistance but to serve as a model for others in a world in which there are many needs but also many opportunities to serve.

Inez Donley died on January 27, 2013, at age 97 of Alzheimer's disease. Born: She was born Inez Cantrell on August 6, 1915 near Smithville, Tennessee, the fifth of seven children in a poor farming family. Her mother, Inus, died when she was 5. Personal: She was a loving wife for more than 66 years to her husband, Edward, a devoted mother, and a tireless volunteer and community leader in the Lehigh Valley for six decades. After high school, Inez worked in a Chattanooga, TN boarding house to pay her tuition to McKenzie School of Business, where she studied typing and bookkeeping. In 1943, she was hired as a secretary at Air Products, Inc., a new company making oxygen generators for the war effort, where she met her husband Edward Donley. They married on October 24, 1946. Inez and Edward came to the Lehigh Valley when Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. moved here in 1949. They lived in Alburtis, then Emmaus, and then Allentown for 45 years, before moving to Kirkland Village in Bethlehem in 2008. Mrs. Donley actively supported her husband in his work as an engineer, senior manager, and ultimately CEO and Chairman of Air Products. She was equally devoted to their children, Martha Donley Robb (a psychologist in New Hampshire, spouse John), Tom (business development manager, The Butz Companies, spouse Cindy) and John (a lawyer in Chicago, spouse Michele). A friend once said, Ed is CEO of Air Products and Nezzie is CEO of Donley Inc. Mrs. Donley's community service included driving patients for the Red Cross, delivering Meals on Wheels, and knocking on doors to raise money for many causes. Once, when a Good Shepherd Home fundraiser was below goal, Good Shepherd president Conrad Raker asked Mrs. Donley if she could take on five more contacts. I'll take ten, Mrs. Donley replied, and her follow-up effort pushed the drive over its $1 million goal. I love Inez Donley! Raker declared in a letter to the Morning Call. Mrs. Donley served 25 years on the board of KidsPeace, the regional home for disadvantaged children. When she joined, the main building (then called Wiley House) was pocked with gopher holes or rat holes, I don't know, Mrs. Donley later recalled in an interview. We had a bucket ready on rainy days if the roof leaked. It was time to build something better. She was a key member of the team that raised the money to build the modern KidsPeace campus in Orefield. As president of the Allentown Library board from 1979 to 2004, Mrs. Donley oversaw the library's move from its cramped quarters on 9th Street to the modern building at 12th and Hamilton. Mrs. Donley led a team that doubled the number of library users, arranged free peanut butter sandwiches for poor children, and pioneered free internet access. As former library director Kathryn Stephanoff said, She truly led us into the 21st century, giving exceptional advice and leadership by using her subtle weapons - an occasional raised eyebrow, a few soft words, the very easy to interpret silent stare and the wonderfully helpful questions - why, how, when, for whom. No one will fill her chair with the same simple dignity, the same sensible questions, the same loyal support. Mrs. Donley didn't seek the spotlight, yet still received many accolades. Muhlenberg College awarded her an honorary Doctor of Human Letters in 1984 for truly salutary service to this community and your humanitarianism which reflects a quiet determination to reaffirm the worth and dignity of your fellow men and women. When she received a United Way award in 1981, the plaudits included this: Inez just wants to get the job done. She doesn't look for recognition. There are givers and there are takers . . . Inez is a giver. And this: She's a warm, generous person always doing things for people. She doesn't even have any hobbies, because she's so busy doing volunteer work in the community. At the award ceremony, her husband described Inez as a woman of uncommon common sense, and credited her with (among other things) being the inspiration and motivation behind his own success. Mrs. Donley did have hobbies, too. She played basketball at New Market, Alabama High School and, with sufficient prodding in later years, would occasionally demonstrate the granny shot free throw. Mrs. Donley was an avid bridge player, reader and gardener (groundhogs nibbled on her hollyhocks at their peril). She enjoyed cooking and was famous for fried chicken and homemade pies. She had strong, quick hands and was adept with any tool, including a hoe, paring knife, rolling pin, sewing needle, Royal manual typewriter, rake, hammer and two-by-four. Most of all, Mrs. Donley loved being with her children, grandchildren, and her siblings, in-laws and their families. She graciously opened her vacation home in the Poconos to large and unpredictable crowds, and made every guest feel at home.

Priscilla Payne Hurd, 93, of Riegelsville, PA, died on Tuesday morning, February 5, 2013. Born: Mrs. Hurd was born on September 26, 1919 in Evanston, IL. Prill' was the daughter of the late Frank E. and Seba B. Payne of Chicago, IL. Personal: She was the wife of George A. Hurd, Sr., who worked for the legal and finance departments of the Bethlehem Steel Company. Mr. Hurd died in 2002. Mrs. Hurd spent most of her childhood in Glencoe, IL. She attended the North Shore Country Day School in Winnetka, IL, The Madeira School in McLean, VA, and Finch College in New York City. During World War II, she drove an ambulance in Chicago. As a member of the Junior League of Chicago, the focus of which was to interest young woman in the industrial and social problems on the city, she volunteered in family court. Mrs. Hurd moved to Bethlehem, PA in 1946 when she married George A. Hurd. Sr. Mr. and Mrs. Hurd lived in Bethlehem during the first years of their marriage, then moved to Saucon Valley and, finally, to a farm in Riegelsville in the late 1950s. They had been married for 56 years, when Mr. Hurd died in 2002 at the age of 91. Mrs. Hurd was on many organizational boards in the 66 years that she lived in the Lehigh Valley, but notably was the first woman board member and 1st woman chairperson of the board at St. Luke's Hospital, the first woman board member and the 1st woman chairperson at Moravian College, and the 1st woman board member and chairperson of the National Museum of Industrial History. She was awarded an honorary degree, Doctor of Humanities by the Allentown College of St. Francis DeSales (now DeSales University) in 1992, an honorary Doctor of Letters Degree by Moravian College in 1993, was the recipient of Northampton Community College's first Community Fabric Award, and received an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters from the Lehigh University in 2003. In addition, she received numerous citations from the City of Bethlehem and awards from organizations across the Lehigh Valley. 

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