More than 100 friends and family gathered at Fleetwood Grange for a 100th birthday celebration for Fleetwood native and borough treasurer of 33 years, Lester Hoch.
Slideshows and photographs took the 105 attendees on a journey with Hoch through the years beginning with the day he was born, Dec. 25, 1913. The slideshow featured vintage photos, courtesy of Hoch’s granddaughter, Bonnie Hirneisen, of what life was like during the years Hoch grew up in.
Hoch’s daughter in law, Carole Hoch, and her daughter, Bonnie Hirneisen, compiled the pictures for the slide show and used many of the images from the Fleetwood Historical Society website.
With memory still sharp, Hoch talked about Fleetwood beginning with details of when WWI had ended and what he and his father did along with what went on in the borough. Hoch was almost 5 at the time.
“Nov. 11, 1918, my father said we’re going up to the corner and help to make noise. We went to the corner on Main and Franklin and the whistles were blowing,” Hoch said and continued with details of businesses in town such as the little fire alarm of the silk mill. “An impromptu parade was formed and they went around two or three blocks of when Fleetwood was that time.”
Hoch said that was how Veteran’s Day originated. Hoch continued to recall the history of Fleetwood and talked about its 50 anniversary in 1923. He was in grade school and said each of the six grades got in the parade.
“The parade was so big we didn’t have enough streets in Fleetwood for it to get on,” said Hoch.
Hoch recalled people who played a role in the development of Fleetwood as well as when buildings went up or down. He also recalled Fleetwood’s last trolley run in 1932 as well as the names and dates of farms that were gobbled up as the borough developed, but of the many memories he shared with his audience, his most favorite memory was one he shared during an interview of when he first met his wife, Lillian. Lillian was unable to attend for health reasons.
Hoch met Lillian George, Lenhartsville, when he and her brother, Stanley, were in inducted into service in Hamburg, November, 1941. Stanley had introduced Lester to Lillian. Hoch was in the service prior to WWII and said he served four years and a month. He was three years overseas. Hoch said the Government issued numbers for a lottery and if your number was picked, you were sent for a physical, and if you passed, you were in. That was October 1941; in December 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked. Hoch’s one year military training turned into four years and a month.
“We corresponded during WWII. Lillian said this on several occasions, ‘We did our dating by letter, by correspondence’,” said Hoch.
“We have a whole box of their letters that they corresponded during WWII,” said Dori Hoch, wife of Lester’s son, Frank.
Dori provided the following excerpts from a couple of Hoch’s letters to Lillian. She thought the beginning was so great on the one and the ending the way they had the Pennsylvania Dutch bond was cute in the other. She said their feelings had grown over their years of correspondence because he wasn’t signing, ‘Your Pal’, anymore.
One Letter’s Opening: May 1, 1943, “Dearest Lillian: Today I was lucky again- why? I received two more letters from the sweetest girl I know. One was written March 30th and the other was your V-letter of April 22nd. That one really travelled, eh? As always, they surely were welcome little dispatches from good old PA, and more specifically that spot east of Klinesville.”
Another Letter’s Closing: “You ended a letter with a little Dutch word so I will too. Mein leibstest- ich vergesse dich netja gewisse. Golly, was kennt ich dich dricke, wann du do werst! Hmmm-m. Good Night and lots of love, “Les.”
Lester and Lillian married in 1946 and this past May celebrated their 67 anniversary.
Friends who attended the birthday party found Hoch’s precision for detail amazing and all said the same thing, they enjoyed his love for conversation and his knowledge.
During a reading of comments from guests, Ron Fry wrote, “When I think of Lester, I think of the many times at the bank board meetings when we would be discussing a mortgage application. Then Lester would give us the whole history of the property, when it was built, who built it, and who lived there over the years.
“I love to talk to him because he’s so brilliant. He remembers every date; he remembers everything. He’s 100 years old and you can ask him anything and he knows it,” said Janet Peters, Fleetwood.
“I’d walk into his office to have a check signed and it would be so smokey. He smoked cigars. I can’t believe it didn’t affect his health because he smoked them a long time,” said Nettie Aulenbach.
Harold Althouse, former master of the Fleetwood Grange, worked with Hoch, treasurer for the grange, since 1970.
“He was a very good treasurer; he always kept things up to date. He knew the books. Lester was always good at figures. He’s been around figures all his life I guess,” said Althouse.
Hoch worked as treasurer for many things including the Fleetwood Grange, Sunday School, Fleetwood Borough, Sanitary, and the Patriotic Order Sons of American Lodge. Hoch continues to work, as is his usual routine, everyday at his desk reviewing the paper with his magnifying glass, clipping articles, scrutinizing the church bulletin, and keeping up with local happenings. Hoch at his desk working and smoking Phillies Perfecto Cigars and talking about history are the very essence people remembered and love about Hoch.
“I want to thank everybody for everything that happened here today. I certainly appreciate it; thank you,” said Hoch.
As his youngest son, Kenneth, said at the close, they expect to see Lester at his 110 birthday celebration.