UNSUNG HEROES: PART I
In honor of Older Americans Month, 14 Lehigh County residents were honored during the 19th annual tribute to Unsung Heroes at Fellowship Community, Whitehall.
This tribute honors older adults in the Valley who have displayed exceptional generosity with their time and talents to enrich the lives of others in the community.
Part I of the Unsung Heroes story includes local honorees Barry L. Faust, William H. Wehr and Nancy J. Eckert.
Barry L. Faust
Marianne Werling, community services and support supervisor with the county office of aging spoke about BarryFaust of Orefield.
“Faust was a police officer for 29 years, starting with the Kutztown Police Department, where he spent four years, then South Whitehall Township, where he worked for 25 years,” she stated. “He also taught criminal justice at Lehigh Carbon Community College and Northampton Community College for 14 years.”
After retirement, Faust started participating in triathlons and competing for Team Blueline, which raises money and awareness for the families of law enforcement officers killed or seriously injured in the line of duty.
“After each race he crosses the finish line carrying the Team Blueline flag and does a cartwheel to honor one of the daughters of an officer killed in the line of duty, who taught him how to do a cartwheel when they first met,” Werling stated.
In August 2017, Faust was diagnosed with kidney cancer, which metastasized to his bones. Being courageous and inspiring, he continues to compete in events.
“Faust has inspired many other cancer patients by showing that he may have cancer, but that it does not stop him from doing things to enjoy life,” Werling said.
“He is very generous, caring and thoughtful. Not only does he support the families of officers killed or seriously injured in the line of duty, but he also races for a cancer triathlon team to raise money and awareness for cancer victims.
“Faust also raises money and support for the Andy Derr Foundation for Kidney Cancer Research in the Lehigh Valley and is a Make-A-Wish volunteer who assists in granting wishes to critically ill children.
“During the summer months he can often be seen volunteering for Lehigh Valley Road Runners Club Kids run series, getting children involved.”
“I was honored to receive the award will all the other distinguished recipients,” Faust emailed The Press. “I hope I can be an inspiration to other seniors and cancer patients. Enjoy life it is a precious gift.”
William H. Wehr
Judith Stanczak, deputy director with Lehigh County Office of Aging and Adult Services spoke about William H. Wehr, formally of South Whitehall Township, now of Whitehall.
She said the 2.5-acre Peace Garden at Jordan United Church of Christ, South Whitehall, is the result of Wehr seeing the mess which remained after harvesting a number of mature hardwood trees at the end of their long life.
‘As founder of the Peace Garden, Bill’s vision was to transform the area into a place where church members and friends, as well as the wider community, could enjoy the goodness of God’s creation on a hiking trail,” she stated.
“He also had visions of people being able to rest on a bench and reflect on life, meditate next to a rock garden, rest on a swing, or enjoy hot dogs cooked at a fire pit.”
Although others have invested much time and energy in designing, installing, and maintaining the Peace Garden, Wehr’s leadership, determination, and persistence is what brought the dream to reality, she explained.
“Bill is a man of quiet faith, which has guided his life and actions on behalf of others, as well as his concern for issues of social justice,” Stanczak stated. “His deep roots in our community and family name led him to publicly advocate for the preservation of Wehr’s Dam. He gathered signatures of hundreds of citizens who agreed with his position and was often quoted in the newspaper.”
Stanczak said Wehr was the diving coach at Parkland High School, and was the first special education teacher there.
Wehr was Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit 21’s special education supervisor before his retirement.
“He has a heart of compassion and led the way in allowing special needs students to be mainstreamed in school classrooms,” Stanczak said. “In his retirement years, this has carried over into his passion for equal opportunities and access for all people.”
She said Wehr has contributed much to our community over the years, including taking food donations from Jordan UCC to the pantry at Jordan Lutheran.
“Bill was also a church volunteer in Biloxi, MS after Hurricane Katrina, helping to rebuild homes,” Stanczak stated. “He did the design and painting of Jordan UCC’s outdoor Labyrinth which is used for spiritual growth among the members and friends as well as community members.”
Nancy J. Eckert
“As a retired Army nurse, Nancy J. Eckert of South Whitehall is active in the local Vietnam Veterans of America group in Bethlehem giving of her time monthly to assist in “Stand Up for Vets” events to benefit the homeless,” Stanczak said.
Working with the Leonardo Society in the Advancement Office of the DaVinci Science Center, Eckert helps others share their assets in the name of science education, she added.
Eckert serves on the Alumni Auxiliary Board of Cedar Crest College helping to promote alumni affairs and encourages the involvement of other alumni.
She also is involved in many activities at Nativity Lutheran Church, Allentown.
“She recruits and schedules readers for weekly worship services and serves on the Faith Formation Committee as a mentor and leader,” Stanczak stated. “She also serves on the Leadership Team for McKinley Elementary School as a liaison between the school and Nativity, where she learns the needs of the children at McKinley and then shares those needs with the church so that the congregation can help meet those needs.”
Stanczak noted Eckert volunteers without accolades and without seeking praise.
“She remains an active vital member of our community,” Stanczak said. “Her involvement is not only impressive but also inspiring to anyone who can imagine the possibilities and benefits of helping others.”