Sunday, May 27, 2018

Universal Truth - Union Hill, Memorial Day

Thank you for coming today.

It is Memorial Day.
Union Hill Cemetery, East Weissport, Pennsylvania.  Held Street runs parallel in the distance.  Named after native son
Reed Gaumer Held in 1962, son of Ethel and Marvin Held.
Thank you for coming today.

It is Memorial day

I am here to talk to you about universal truth…

Close your eyes and make a picture in your mind.

For one moment,

Picture a family member,

Who is no longer here.

Someone who loved you,

Someone who placed hopes and dreams for you and your future.

And here is the universal truth:

There is no bond stronger than the bond that holds the family together.

All of our hopes and dreams emanate from our family…

Here today, we the people, gathered here on Union Hill,

We hold these truths to be self-evident.

This was and still is, a tight-knit neighborhood.

You can see all the family homes around us. 

You can see where the Bauers’ and the Flickingers lived, and where the Getzs’ and the Millers’ lived, and where the Haydts’, and the Helds’ all lived.

You can imagine the children playing, the mothers calling their children home for dinner.  
Walter in his Union Hill backyard of his family.
Adam and Dora had seven sons: James,
Willard, Walter, Kenneth, Earl, "Kelly,"
and Raymond.  James died in 1919.  The
last of the Haydt's, Raymond, died last week
21 May 2018.  I only knew Ray, and he
was the best of men.

You can imagine all the first kisses and all the skinned knees that happened on this hill… 

These are the simple pleasures and pains of life.

But things aren’t always simple are they?

The families of Union Hill have given much to secure the freedoms of our nation.

They too, had hopes and dreams, for the children, they sent to war.

I’d like to tell you about some of the people that lived here:

Radioman Walter Haydt.  The Shoemaker-Haydt
Legion Post #314 is named in part for him.
Adam and Dora Haydt raised six boys on this hill. 

Ray Haydt, the youngest, died one week ago today. 

He was the longest living resident of this hill. 

He told me how hard it was on his family while 3 of his brothers served in battle during WWII.

It was nothing but constant worry.

Williard Haydt served in the Army Artillery. 

Earl Haydt suffered such severe frostbite he had to take the boots off a dead fellow soldier at the Battle of the Bulge.  He received a shrapnel wound there. 

Walter Haydt was a radioman on a B-24 bomber.  His plane went down in December 1942.

But Adam and Dora had to wait two long years before their son was officially deemed KIA.

The waiting made the agony so much worse.

Then there was the Miller family. 

Elwood M. Miller was the son of a railroad engineer.  Elwood was the oldest child of Jennie and Warren.  Elwood was killed at one of our bloodiest battles Americans ever fought in: Guadalcanal in the South Pacific.
Elwood M. Miller of Union Hill
He was killed at Guadalcanal 15 Jan 1943.
The Legion Post is named the Shoemaker-Haydt Post in honor of Walter Haydt.  The Lehighton “Elwood Miller AmVets” post is named after Miller. 

Ethel Held, with postmen Blaine Gerhard and Karl Hinkle,
look at the new Union Hill street sign for Held Street
in April 1962.  It was named for Marvin and Ethel Held's
only child Reed Gaumer Held who went missing on
a surveillance flight in the South Pacific in 1946. 

And the name of Held Street, which runs directly behind us, was officially created in 1962 honoring another Union Hill son, Reed Gaumer Held.
Reed was the only child of Marvin and Ethel Held. 

Ethel’s last name was Reed.  Ethel’s mother’s last name was Gaumer.   

Reed Gaumer Held, a powerful name.
Reed Gaumer Held in his 1939 Lehighton High yearbook.  The only child of Ethel and Marvin, many of their most important
hopes and dreams where in their son.  Marvin was an instrument repairman at the New Jersey Zinc Co in Palmerton and residents of Union Hill.  Their home is one of the finest in the neighborhood.
He was a radar specialist who trained among other places at M.I.T. 

Ethel and Marvin had hoped Reed’s name would go forward…

To not only embody the former generations of his family…

But also as the family seed going forward….

But all this died, the day Marvin and Ethel received the news.

The Marvin and Ethel Held home yesterday and today.

He was part of a top secret intelligence gathering mission in the South Pacific. 
And then his plane went missing.
Warren Miller, leaving home  for his last run as railroad
engineer, on 28 October 1962, twenty years
after his son Elwood died in WWII, and twenty years before he
would die in 1983.  Bone of my Bone, Flesh of my Flesh.  

Bone of my bone,

Flesh of my flesh.

There is no bond stronger than the bond that holds a family together.

It is indivisible.

We hold God-given rights,

to Life,

to Liberty,

to the Pursuit of Happiness.

But in war, we sometimes forego these.

Instead, we offer up our brightest and our best. 

And we are willing to test the bounds of family.

It goes against natural law, for Mothers and Fathers

To send their sons and daughters to war.

Families carry unexpected deaths like these with them forever.
Like a stone in their shoe, 
a constant reminder of sorrow,
at every step in life.

Neither Reed Held nor Elwood Miller had any children.

Reed Gaumer Held died with his powerful name.

Walter Haydt had an ir-retractable smile.

Walter’s daughter Janice grew up without her father,

but Walter’s smile lives on in Janice’s smile.
Janice holding her father Walter Haydt's hat.

So please, take the flower provided to you today. 

And rest it at the head of the Held family, the Haydt family, the Miller family, and to the seemingly countless other veteran families buried on this hill.

Let everyone who comes here know that you were here, thinking of them…

And please…

Remember what these families gave.

To all you soldiers, now at rest. 

Sleep well.

Rest in the comfort of knowing..

That we were here to remember you. 

Know that you were loved

And that you still, are loved…

Rest well, knowing that what YOU loved, so much, continues here.

There are families visiting here today.
There are families still living on this hill,

Families who still love one another…

Who still invest, their most important hopes and dreams,

In each other.

We hold,
These truths,
To be self-evident.

There is no bond, stronger than, the bond that holds the family together.


Neither Haydt's nor Held's bodies were ever recovered.  There is a marker at at Fort McPherson National Cemetery in Nebraska for Haydt.

This is the universal grave of Walter Haydt's entire crew of the B-24 "Texas Terror" that went down with army
payroll aboard.  For complete details of Haydt's story, click here.

Some other Union Hill Stories and Graves:

Andrea Beth Miller's 1980 Lehighton High
yearbook photo.  She entered the Army after
graduation and worked with the Military Police.

Andrea Miller was killed in her apartment in Germany on Christmas Day 1984.  There is one unconfirmed story that she was involved on a drug bust on a boat.  One of the men waited until Christmas Day to exact his revenge on her for her part in the raid.
Although she lived on Reber Street, next
to the old stone Reber homestead, she
was buried on Union Hill Cemetery.  One
of her hopes, was to one day be
a mechanic.

Hal Hongen of Union Hill died in France
just one month before the 1918 armistice
to end WWI.

John Penberth was killed at Iwo Jima.  His father was a coal miner and the family lived in Weissport and Lehighton, but they placed a grave for John on Union Hill.  His body was buried at Sea.  His mother, only in her 40s, died of a stroke in 1950.  His father Edwin had been living at the Gnaden Huetten Inn in Mahoning when he died in September 1955.  He hit the back end of a large coal truck traveling at low speed up a steep hill.  He was leaving his daughter's house in Lehigh County and the coal truck was headed to New York City.
Ray Haydt, tallest in center, was the oldest living resident
of Union Hill prior to his death last week.  He was the
youngest brother to Walter Haydt.


Not necessarily Union Hill, but a glimpse at life in Weissport from
1962.  Times were different, but kids will always be kids, no matter the era.

Union Hill - The Beidleman Home around 1907 along with a more modern picture.
The Lehighton UVO recognizes the service of our WWI Veterans at the north end of Weissport Park, Memorial Day at 8:45 am.
"Universal Truth" Speech at Union Hill, May 2018.  The Marvin and Ethel
Held home is obscured by the trees to the rear, Held St.

Afterward - 

As every year, the Legion Post #314 in Lehighton hosted the community for a free lunch of BBQ, hotdogs, salads, and liquid libation.  This year, I got to meet a local and national war hero, Mr. Clarence Smoyer.  His M26 Pershing tank takes out an MK5 Panther tank in Operation Spearhead in the Battle of Cologne, Germany in March 1945.  The footage of this battle has become one of the most viewed and famed of the war and it's easy to find any internet search).  There is a scene where German soilders scramble out of a tank, some fatally wounded, as a result of Smoyer's aim.

Another tank tries to back out and escape.  However Smoyer is able to fire at the cathedrel, causing it to collapse onto the tank.  That crew was taken prisoner.  Among them was Gustav Schafer.  Clarence traveled back to Germany and was able to meet Gustav.  He took a second trip recently, but Gustav had passed.  Smoyer is also featured in a book "Spearhead" by Adam Makos.  (Makos also has a NYT Best Seller "A Higher Call.")

  Smoyer grew up in the Forest Inn area and recently moved in with his daughter in the Allentown area.  He is 95.  If you need to contact Mr. Smoyer, you can email me at

Clarence Smoyer in WWII E Company,
32nd A. R., 3rd Armored.
Gustav Schaffer and Clarence Smoyer in Cologne.

Author Adam Makos (r) and Smoyer (l) in Germany.

Major (ret) Randy Fritz, Rabenold, Spike Long, and Smoyer
at the Legion Post for Memorial Day Lunch.  Fritz was
the main speaker at Lehighton.  Above, Clarence enjoys
his favorite beer in Germany.
This postcard shows the rear of Smoyer's Perhsing tank
at the Battle of Cologne from March 6, 1945.  Clarence
carries a supply of these cards and graciously
signed the back.  


  1. Thanks Joel, hope to see you when you come up to put the final edits to that book set to publish soon. I have a little gift for Jess for her shop waiting at 105 S. 9th St.