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Anniversary book named WWI veterans

By Carol Sones Shetler - Reporter | Oct 27, 2020

At Bethany Lutheran Church in Montoursville are (left-right) June Grube, Judy Hayes and Jane Leiter. holds the 50th anniversary book chronicling the congregation’s history as well as that of 34 veterans who had recently returned from World War I. CAROL SHETLER/The Luminary

NOTE: Weekly through November as the nation marks ‘Veteran’s Day,’ The Luminary will print accounts of five veterans born in the easter part of Lycoming County. Of the five natives, three left the area thus may have fallen from memory. However, all had relatives remaining here giving us hope these accounts will find favor with those interested in family history.

Thanks to networking with local historian June Grube of Montoursville, we were able to view a book compiled by Rev. O. E. Sunday and the congregation of Montoursville’s Bethany Lutheran Church, written for its 50th anniversary in 1920.

Rev. Sunday, after serving the church from Sept.1916 to October 1946, resigned due to ill health. His departure resulting in 574 individuals attending the Easter Sunday communion service that year. Positive remarks from parishioners regarding the much beloved pastor had been heard over the years by twin granddaughters, Judy Hayes and Jane Leiter.

The three women in the accompanying photo, Grube, Hayes and Leiter, have lifelong connections as all attended Bethany and were in the same class in Montoursville schools. All continue to reside in the borough.

Within the 1920 book, the first portion describes the congregation’s history. The second section was dedicated to its “National Defenders and Heroes” who had just returned from service in WWI.

For thirty years, (1916-1946) the Reverend O. E. Sunday was pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Montoursville. In 1920, the pastor and congregation published a book celebrating the 50th anniversary of the church’s founding, including photos and bios of veterans within it’s membership. PHOTO PROVIDED

Part of the books dedication to its veterans is as follows:

“America has always been blessed with a goodly number of those residing within her borders who, whenever the need arose, have counted it a privilege to answer the call to serve in national defense. They went forth brave and courageous and in the midst of winter, starvation, hardship, wounds and sacrifice, preserved their national heritage and rights. Some of them returned, bearing on their bodies the marks of battle, some of them laid down their lives on the altar of sacrifice, but on every occasion their noble efforts have been crowned with victory. Of the living, let it be said, all honor! They were faithful to duty and privilege. And in memory of those who have made the supreme sacrifice, it has been said, ‘Greater Love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ “

The book contains names of 34 WWI veterans plus two nurses. The names and birthplaces of those The Luminary will highlight are Edwin O. App of Picture Rocks, Samuel D. Busler of Pennsdale, Donald A. Gross of Montgomery, Adolph E. Mayr of Huntersville and Clarence H. McConnel of Pennsdale.

(continued next week)