Henry J. Young Award - Donna & Gerald Shermeyer, June 2013
Donna was born in Harrisburg, but she came to York before she was a year old and spent her childhood and growing up years with grandparents Hilda Johnson Porter and Samuel Porter on Salem Avenue, a beautiful area of the city at that time. After graduating from William Penn Senior High School, Donna attended Thompson Business College and had courses in childhood education from Lebanon Valley College. She spent many years working with children in Sunday School, workshops and camps, starting at the family church, St. Luke’s United Methodist, which was located at West and King Streets, not far from her home.
Gerald was the son of Elizabeth Sipe Dellinger Shermeyer and Curvin Henry Shermeyer. They lived at 919 Hay Street, and Gerald too graduated from William Penn Senior High School. He then worked in his father’s welding shop until he enlisted in October 1940 in the Army Air Corps. Gerald also studied at the New York School of Photography. During his time in the service Gerald had classes at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois. He was stationed at Seymour Johnson Field, Goldsboro, N.C., and then sent to be an instructor on aircraft and engines at the 121st Royal Air Force Technical Training Center in England.
Donna and Gerald were married in 1943, and she accompanied him to North Carolina, but she came back to York while he was in Europe. After being discharged in 1945, he attended the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, and then worked at York Airport, starting when the airport was on Roosevelt Avenue, and later at Thomasville. Gerald’s job was inspecting and relicensing aircraft. He obtained his pilot’s license and was a member of the Civil Air Patrol. Gerald was employed as chief mechanic and inspector of aircraft at L.B. Smith Aircraft in Harrisburg. He was maintenance inspector for fixed- and rotor-wing aircraft at New Cumberland Army Depot, retiring from there in 1980.
He gave many hours volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, and, following Donna’s lead, came to volunteer in the Library/Archives at the then Historical Society of York County. Some of his many projects included cleaning, organizing and cataloging the motion picture films in the collection. One major project was organizing the 1,746 original Dempwolf architectural drawings, housing them in archival folders and creating a comprehensive index. He retyped many family index cards that were deteriorating from age and kept the microfilm readers operational with his mechanical skills.
Some of Gerald’s memberships were in the Philatelic Society, Numismatic Society, and the Izaak Walton Society. He served on the Administrative Board and as Treasurer of St. Luke United Methodist Church, and he enjoyed his flights as a private pilot.
Donna worked as a bookkeeper at Harper Myers in York in the 1950s, using “an early prelude to a computer.” She has also been busy over the years doing freelance accounting. She was officially Assistant Librarian at the Historical Society of York County for 27 months in the early 1990s. She then went back into “retirement,” which meant volunteering at least three days a week at the HSYC Library/Archives. That volunteering went back to 1978 when son Mark, a student at Carnegie Mellon University, was doing a work study project at HSYC organizing the German-language Almanac collection, under then Librarian/Archivist Landon Reisinger. He told his mother, who had always loved history, especially local history, that the library needed her. Some of Donna’s early projects were organizing the extensive Zahn genealogical collection and working with another early computer. She especially liked working with the school classes that came in to research their families and local history.
She spent much time researching the Strayer family back to its very early York County roots, and she also worked with military author Franklin Gurley concerning the General Jacob Devers papers. Besides helping on-site patrons, Donna coordinated the research-by-mail service and did a lot of that research herself.
Donna also served as Treasurer and Administrative Board member at St. Luke United Methodist Church. She also shared Gerald’s interests as a member of the Philatelic Society and Izaak Walton League. She is currently a member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and active in the Lutheran Women in Mission there. Her other interests include working with children, baking, going to the gym and exercise classes. She is very active on numerous committees at Normandie Ridge.
Besides her years of researching family histories for others, Donna has done genealogy on the Shermeyer, Dellinger, Dietz, Sipe, Boeckel and Zimmerman families for her and Gerald’s family. After taking off a few years, Donna came back in 2011 to the York County Heritage Trust Library/Archives, again working on the long distance research as well as helping patrons on site. Sadly, Gerald passed away in 2010, but his many projects live on.
Donna is grateful to have had the opportunity to meet so many people through the YCHT Library/Archives, “never having met a person she didn’t like.” She says she is so glad to be back, that everyone needs to move on, and her advice is to “Don’t ever stop.” Donna is a perfect example of that philosophy.