Board honors 3 county residents
Lehigh Commissioners paid homage to one of the county’s most illustrious and highly respected citizens recently. Joseph R. Zeller, “statesman, patriot, and recipient of the Freedom Foundation Award” was honored on the occasion of his 100th birthday. Mr. Zeller’s birthday was Sept. 19.
In a special resolution, the commissioners thanked Zeller “for a lifetime of service to his community and his country.”
The resolution described Zeller as one who brought “unbounded vision, impassioned drive and unmitigated commitment to virtually any issue he addressed, thus leaving the people they meet and the they service a far better place.”
Zeller, a resident of Lowhill Township, served five terms (1971–1980) in the PA State House where he represented the 134th Legislative District, which is currently represented by Ryan Mackenzie and comprises parts of Berks County and parts of Lehigh County. In Lehigh County the 134th includes Alburtis, Lower Macungie Township, Macungie, parts of Salisbury Township and parts of South Whitehall Township.
Zeller also served two terms as mayor of Emmaus Borough and four years as Emmaus Borough councilman.
He is a Penn State graduate and veteran of World War II and of Korea. He was a 70-year member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion; he was the first commander and founder of Post 12099 in Allentown.
Zeller served during World War II as a Chief Aviation Electrician on the aircraft carrier USS Ranger CV-4 in the Atlantic.
During the period Nov. 8-16, 1942 he saw combat in Operation Torch off Casablanca, landing in American troops in Africa where they began the Allied invasion against German forces and their Vichy French allies.
Almost a year later, Zeller participated in Operation Leader off the coast of Norway on Oct. 4, 1943, when U.S. and British forces attacked German shipping near Body, Norway.
Zeller also served during the Korean War, when he help man an early warning system in the Artic.
“The young people should get involved so they can be part of the community,” said Zeller during a recent interview, when asked what advice he has for the younger generation. “Work for the people; help them. Be part of the community.”
Does he have a philosophy of life? “I’m never a negative person, I don’t believe in it, and that’s why you live longer. I tell everybody to stay positive, if you stay positive and shake hands every day, you’re going to live longer,” Zeller said in an interview with a local television station.
Commissioners also recognized Clarence and Florence Smith of Slatington for “outstanding initiative in support of local, national, and global humanitarian causes.
Clarence Smith has been following unclaimed property reports and trying to contact the rightful claimants who usually have no idea that they may have unclaimed property. When Smith locates a claimant and they collect the unclaimed property, often money, Smith takes no commission.
Instead, he suggests that the claimant donate to Heifer International, a charity that provides cows, chickens, and other agricultural animals to families around the world.
According to their website, “We believe that the collective power of economic development, food security and nutrition, and environmental sustainability can empower small-scale farmers on the path to living incomes. When those components are multiplied by the positive impacts of gender equality and social capital, communities achieve greater resilience and a sustainable reduction in hunger and poverty.”
The commissioners cited the Smiths for the “countless hours volunteering and educating others on worthwhile causes.” According to the citation published by the commissioners, the donations the Smiths collect “increase access to medicine, schools, food, and a sustainable livelihood. Their efforts make the world a better place.”