Family, friends, co-workers and fellow Hamburg residents gathered at the Hamburg Pool on Friday, July 11, to honor Jane M. Yoder who inspired many in the area and left a generous donation for work on the playground and pool.
“On behalf of the Borough Council, the mayor and our superintendents, I’d like to thank you,” said Marisa Lenceski, Hamburg Borough Manager. “I’d like to thank Jane’s friends and family for coming as we are here today to dedicate our new walkway and our handicap access ramp into the pool in memory of Jane Yoder, Hamburg’s first female lifeguard.”
Before the start of the ceremony and well after, those gathered spoke highly of Yoder and reminisced about her accomplishments and the way she inspired others.
“It will benefit generations to come, just as Jane did with all of the lives she touched,” said Lenceski.
Yoder graduated from Hamburg Area High School in 1944 during which she excelled in academics and was a star athlete. Following high school she attended East Stroudsburg University where she graduated with honors. It was then that she returned to Berks County as a teacher at in the Fleetwood Area School District. During her time at Fleetwood she told the administrators that she was ready to coach. With no female teams at the school, Yoder took it upon herself to find a way to make it possible to have teams for females. She helped create the girls’ basketball, softball and field hockey teams. During her time as a coach, all three won league championships.
Yoder then attended Lehigh University where she earned her master’s degree in guidance counseling. She then returned to Hamburg Area High School, first as part of the guidance team and then later as the director of the guidance team and she was the first woman in the administration at Hamburg.
Jeanette Heckman, Borough Council member, was unable to make the ceremony but prepared a few words for Lenceski to share on her behalf. Heckman told about an instance she heard through a neighbor in which Yoder was credited as saving a student’s life with her counseling. The student did not feel that she had much of an option after high school and Yoder suggested that the student should look at opportunities in the service. That student felt that Yoder saved her life with that suggestion.
“I think it’s wonderful that she paved the way as Hamburg Pool’s first female lifeguard,” Heckman said. “Thank you for sharing this gift with the children and the people of Hamburg. This gift will continue in her tradition of helping others.”
Among the family and friends at the ceremony was Yoder’s nephew David Reed as well as his parents, Yoder’s younger sister and her brother-in-law.
“I think we all agree it turned out exceptionally well,” said Reed on the new features at the pool. “My wife and I are very happy to support building this walkway and to see the plaques in recognition of Jane and also the potential to help inspire others to overcome challenges.”
With the addition of this new plaque, there will now be three plaques honoring Yoder’s memory and accomplishments located at the Hamburg Pool.
“She helped and inspired many people as a coach, counselor, colleague and as a friend,” said Reed. “We all face challenges at some point in our lives. Maybe when children and grandchildren see these plaques they’ll see what others were able to overcome.”
Two of the plaques were donated by Heckman with one in honor of her years of service as the first female lifeguard at Hamburg Pool and the other for her time as a playground leader. The new plaque was donated by State Street Notary and will be placed in the flower bed that will be constructed this fall adjacent to the concession stand on the hill inside the fence.
Reed spoke highly of his aunt and how proud she was to be part of the pool, playground, a retired teacher and resident of Hamburg.
“I want to thank all the people over the years that have worked to make this park and pool what it is today,” he said as he recalled the area being a great place 40 years ago when he remembers spending his time there. “Even a far better place than it was then.”
“This is a really outstanding community park,” Reed continued. “I think it’s something that Hamburg can be proud of.”
After the ceremony, many of those who helped to honor Yoder shared their own stories about her. Reed also put together a book of some of Yoder’s accomplishments that he shared.
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