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Longtime voters honored with induction into Pennsylvania Voter Hall of Fame

Pennsylvania Voter Hall of Fame inducted it’s newest members in July 2011. For a link to the original article, please click here.

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Joseph D. Lewis Sr., 77, of Mahanoy City, registered to vote 56 years ago, after serving in the Navy.

“I served my country and I thought I deserved the privilege to vote,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I always voted the way I wanted and I always voted for the person I thought would be best for the country.”

Lewis was one of more than 700 Schuylkill County residents eligible for induction into the Pennsylvania Voter Hall of Fame for voting in 50 consecutive General Elections, and 170 of those residents attended a celebration Tuesday honoring those voters.

Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, the state’s chief election official, delivered the keynote address during the ceremony at D.H.H. Lengel Middle School auditorium, Pottsville.

“President Lincoln said 148 years ago at Gettysburg, we have a government ‘of the people, by the people, for the people,’ ” Aichele said. “Voting is the most basic means by which we, the people, keep control of our government. (Voting) is a right so dear that people around the world have left everything to come to America to have that right. There is nothing more fundamental that voting.”

Aichele told the crowd that many of their fellow Americans have forgotten how important voting is.

“Fortunately, you have never forgotten how important it is to vote and you were never too busy to vote,” she said. “You are the best example to your children and grandchildren of being a good citizen.”

The First Brigade Band, led by Leslie Kraft, played while the honorees were greeted and shown to their seats.

As a color guard entered the auditorium, Zavry Jones, Mill Creek, sang the national anthem, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by Angelo “Abe” Barrone, Pottsville, a World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient.

County commissioners Chairwoman Mantura M. Gallagher, commissioners Frank J. Staudenmeier and Francis V. McAndrew and other county officials were on hand, as were state Sen. David Argall, R-29, and Reps. Neal Goodman, D-123, Jerry Knowles, D-124, and Mike Tobash, R-125.

“My dad always said elections are a great equalizer,” Goodman said. “On Election Day, everyone is equal, every vote is important and every vote counts.”

“I am in awe of this audience. You have seen a lot of elected officials come and go,” Argall told the honorees. “I tell the class I teach at Penn State all the time, this system doesn’t work if people don’t vote. Obviously, you get it. Keep it up for 50 more years.”

Many of the honorees are veterans, who stood as the third Brigade Band played the theme song of each branch of service.

Richard Zimmerman, 72, of Pine Grove, remembers voting for John F. Kennedy the first time he voted.

“I just got out of the army and returned home from Germany. I registered because I wanted to vote for John Kennedy,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman, like many of the honorees, said he didn’t realize he had such an exemplary voting record.

“I had no idea. I thought I might have missed one or two,” he said. “To tell you the truth, it was pretty easy since most of the time, the place I voted was only three doors down from where I lived.”

For Wayne R. Kamp, 85, a Navy veteran of World War II from New Ringgold, voting led to a long run in public office.

“I think voting is an honor I earned and from voting I became interested in politics,” Kamp said. “I was a councilman in New Ringgold for quite a few years and we did some good work while I was there.”

Lewis said he hopes the younger generation continues to be active voters.

“Please vote. It’s a privilege and an honor. Many people aren’t able to vote,” Lewis said.

Frannie Brennan, director of the county’s election bureau, said 213 people registered for Tuesday’s event and more than 670 people attended, including guests.

“Anyone who was unable to attend will get their certificate in the mail,” Brennan said Tuesday.

The Pennsylvania Voter Hall of Fame was created in 1982 and has grown to 17,525, including Tuesday’s new members. The last Schuylkill County ceremony was held in 1995 and before Tuesday’s honorees were listed, there were 1,422 county names in the Hall of Fame exhibit in Harrisburg.

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