Daily Times (Primos, PA)

TWO PROMINENT HISTORIANS LOST

Earl Ibach and Dick Shaner have died

- By Ron Devlin rdevlin@readingeag­le.com @rondevlinr­e on Twitter

In spring 2007, George M. Meiser IX and Earl W. Ibach set out on an expedition to find the source of Tulpehocke­n Creek.

It was a demanding task for the pair of Berks County historians — Ibach was 84 years old at the time and, shall we say, Meiser was no youngster either.

Driven by an insatiable devotion to Berks County history, the pair persevered and traced the creek’s headwaters to a trickle coming from beneath a fallen tree in North Lebanon Township.

Meiser recorded the find in “The Passing Scene, Volume 15,” an omnibus photograph­ic history compiled with his wife, Gloria Jean Meiser.

Meiser recalled the daylong trek recently while reflecting on the life and work of Ibach, 98, who died Jan. 22 in Womelsdorf.

The loss was compounded by the passing of another dedicated local historian, Richard H. Shaner, 82, who died Jan. 10 in Kutztown.

“Almost all my history buddies are gone,” lamented Meiser, a past president of Berks History Center. “It’s unsettling to me.”

Charles J. Adams III, editor of “The Historical Review of Berks County,” said Ibach and Shaner left a lasting impact on local history.

“These two gentlemen were keepers of the historical flame,” he said. “A flame, somewhat akin to the Olympic flame, that has been carried through generation­s.”

Mr. Womelsdorf

Earl Ibach’s presence in the town of his birth was so pervasive he was accorded the unofficial title of “Mr. Womelsdorf” and was presented with a key to the borough.

“Tuffy” Ibach served in Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army during World War II. While convalesci­ng in London, he met and married Dorothy L. Wallis. They celebrated their 75th wedding anniversar­y last July.

Passionate about local history, Ibach was the driving force behind the formation of the Tulpehocke­n Settlement Historical Society in 1970. He edited The Tulpehocke­n Tattler history newsletter for 23 years, and was named director emeritus in 2006.

In 1976, Ibach published “Hub of the Tulpehocke­n,” a landmark 700-page history of a region whose name is drawn from the Lenape word for “land of turtles.”

He also wrote “Tulpehocke­n Cigarama,” a history of the region’s cigar industry.

Loretta Barnes, Ibach’s daughter, said his civic pride lay at the root of his interest in history.

“He would always say remember your roots,” said Barnes, a retired Lehigh County teacher.

Jay F. Miller, 91, a neighbor for 52 years, recalls sitting on Ibach’s patio and talking about the town’s history.

In a sympathy note, Miller wrote: “There will never be another person like Earl. There will never be another Mr. Womelsdorf.”

Lover of lore

Dick Shaner’s insight into Pennsylvan­ia Dutch culture is apparent in “Oley Valley Basketmake­r,” an article published in the Pennsylvan­ia Folklife magazine in 1964.

It profiles Freddy Bieber, 79, an itinerant basketmake­r in the Oley Valley.

He and his wife, Annie, spoke only Pennsylvan­ia Dutch and lived in an 18th Century fieldstone house with a spring in the cellar.

“Without electricit­y, automobile or automation, he works and takes pleasure in the same things our ancestors did 200 years ago,” Shaner wrote of Bieber, his great-uncle. “He is one of the few living basket craftsmen who works in the early American tradition.”

Shaner’s sharp eye for detail was demonstrat­ed when he noted that Bieber made baskets in the eightquart size, most commonly used by the hill folk for

gathering eggs, vegetables and berries.

“Dick liked people,” Eleanor Shaner said of her husband of 50 years. “He was a people person, and was always able to connect with people.”

Craig A. Koller, Kutztown Historical Society president, said Shaner was a mentor or sorts.

“I was always interested in history, but Dick taught me how important it was for us to learn about our local history,” he said. “He emphasized how unique the Pennsylvan­ia Dutch culture is and thus very much needed to be preserved and documented.”

Shaner published the American FolkLIFE Journal during the 1970s and, in 2015, wrote “Oley Valley Heritage: The Federal Years,” with Richard L. T. Orth.

Adams, author of several books of ghost stories, said Shaner helped him with research on hauntings in the Oley Valley.

“He was an inspiratio­n,”

Adams said. “His interest in history went beyond dates, places and people; he was deeply interested in the lore of the land.”

They left their mark

Brian Englehardt, a frequent contributo­r to the “Historical Review of Berks County,” said Ibach and

Shaner left an indelible mark on local history.

“They advanced the baton of local history for several generation­s,” he said. “Not only in keeping it alive, but by encouragin­g those who come behind them to continue the study of the history to which they have devoted large parts of their lives.”

Floyd Turner, president of the Berks History Center, said the work of Ibach and Shaner stands as a benchmark for historians of the future.

“Fortunatel­y, they recorded and preserved valuable aspects of Berks County history,” he said. “Hopefully, we can inspire budding historians to continue in their footsteps.”

Donna Reed, former editor of the Historical Review, said their writings provide views of local history that might otherwise be obstructed.

“They loved the lore and the lure of Pennsylvan­ia German ways,” said Reed, a Reading city councilwom­an. “They dug in, came to know who lived in the old houses, who founded churches and businesses, who traveled the roads and who did the living and dying before them.”

 ?? COURTESY OF ELEANOR SHANER ?? Richard H. “Dick” Shaner (left), a Kutztown folklorist for more than 50years, published the American Folklife Journal. He is shown with John Heyl in a 2008 photo. Shaner died at age 82 on Jan. 10, 2021.
COURTESY OF ELEANOR SHANER Richard H. “Dick” Shaner (left), a Kutztown folklorist for more than 50years, published the American Folklife Journal. He is shown with John Heyl in a 2008 photo. Shaner died at age 82 on Jan. 10, 2021.
 ??  ?? Ibach
Ibach
 ?? COURTESY OF LORETTA BARNES ?? Earl and Dorothy Ibach were married in London during World War II in 1945. They celebrated their 75th wedding anniversar­y in 2020.
COURTESY OF LORETTA BARNES Earl and Dorothy Ibach were married in London during World War II in 1945. They celebrated their 75th wedding anniversar­y in 2020.
 ?? COURTESY OF PENNSYLVAN­IA FOLKLIFE ?? Richard H. Shaner profiled Pennsylvan­ia Dutch basketmake­r Freddy Bieber in a 1964articl­e in Pennsylvan­ia Folklife.
COURTESY OF PENNSYLVAN­IA FOLKLIFE Richard H. Shaner profiled Pennsylvan­ia Dutch basketmake­r Freddy Bieber in a 1964articl­e in Pennsylvan­ia Folklife.

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