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Barry C. Werkheiser '64

September 20, 1946 - December 22, 2013

"Why can't I be more like Barry Werkheiser?"

I asked myself this many times in high school. He was good at football (19 touchdowns his senior year), wrestling, baseball, and track (13'6" in the pole vault). His senior year, he picked up a basketball, perhaps for the first time. We played together in the YMCA leaque and won the championship. It was the pinnacle of my athletic career, but barely a footnote for Barry.

We've been a neighbor of Barry and Janet (Frankenfield) for the past 25 years - a great athlete and even better neighbor. He didn't say, "Come up and use the pool sometime." He said, "Come up and use the pool whenever you want."

Barry, and his golfcart full of grandkids, were frequent visitors to our backyard fish pond. He never tired of them or they of him. A better father, grandfather - or neighbor - doesn't exist.

We will miss him.

Terry Lee
December 28, 2013

Williams Township crash victim remembered as generous foster parent, stellar athlete

By Sarah M. Wojcik The Express-Times
December 23, 2013

There was no limit to the love available at the Werkheiser home.

Barry Werkheiser and his wife of 45 years, Janet, opened their Williams Township home to foster children for 13 years, then continued to make room for the growing number of grandchildren over the years, according to their daughter, Keri Short, of Wilson Borough.

The family is embracing the love that came so naturally to Barry Werkheiser as they mourn the loss of the 67-year-old Wilson Area High School graduate who died Sunday in a single-vehicle crash.

"He just had a giant heart," Short said today. "My dad's greatest joy was his children and grandchildren."

Police say Werkheiser, of Old Well Road in Williams Township, lost control of his vehicle Sunday morning on Morgan Hill Road, struck a stop sign, a mailbox then a tree. Police did not have any updates this afternoon on what they believed had caused the wreck. 

Northampton County Coroner Zachary Lysek said he pronounced Werkheiser dead at the scene of blunt-force injuries suffered in the crash and that he ruled the death an accident.

'Superstar athlete'

Werkheiser, who worked more than 30 years for Metropolitan Edison at the Portland Generating Station, was known for his athletic acumen, holding for decades a Wilson Warriors record for most touchdowns in a single season by a running back. His two sons, Kyle and Brett Werkheiser, went on to make sporting headlines in the early 1990s in their own Wilson Area High School wrestling careers.

Beyond sports, Short said her family's home, crowded with foster kids for a large part of her childhood, was the true emblem of her father's character.

"Besides being a superstar athlete, he was a super father and a super pappy," Short said, her voice cracking with emotion.

It started in the 1980s, when the Werkheisers first opened their home to foster kids, Short said.

"It was a circus," Short said with a laugh. "My parents were very selfless. They were great parents and did something to help others who didn't have the same kind of parents."

Short said Mike Staniec and Paul Kranicka, former foster children of the Werkheisers, remain close and are considered family to this day.

Barry Werkheiser also opened his home to his mother, Helen Mae Werkheiser. Tragedy struck in October 2000 when the 74-year-old was killed in a fire at the home.

'They made a difference'

Joe Gonzalez, senior administrator for the Children's Home of Easton, remembers Barry Werkheiser well. Gonzalez was the director of foster care when the Werkheiser family was part of the program and said he was always amazed by the family's passion for helping to give stability to those who never had it.

"They really prioritized kids who really had no other opportunities," Gonzalez said. "They had the same love and affection for these children that they held for their own kids. They made a difference in those children's lives — a big difference."

The Werkheisers encouraged foster children to take up athletics, according to Gonzalez.

"That's what they knew — it was their niche. And by doing that, they allowed the kids to establish their own identity," Gonzalez said. "They really were the family bridge for those kids into their young adulthood."

Short said even after her parents' time in foster care came to an end, Barry Werkheiser thrived on big family gatherings. She said the Werkheiser family pool became a summer destination for the ever-growing family.

"He just loved being surrounded by the kids," she said.

The image of her father driving his golf cart around the family's 2-acre property with several grandchildren along for the ride will always stick with Short, she said.

"It was every little grandkid's favorite thing," Short said of the unconventional mode of transportation. "That golf cart has seen so many miles. Pappy would just ride them all over the property and down the lane on adventures."

A memorial service for Werkheiser is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday at St. John's Church on Morgan Hill, 2720 Morgan Hill Road in Williams Township.