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Attorney honored by award in name of late colleague, friend

January 27, 2003|by BONNIE HELLUM BRECHBILL

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - When Mercersburg attorney Thomas B Steiger Sr. accepted the first Edmund C. Wingerd Jr. Memorial Award in December, he had this to say: "If it is suggested that recipients of this award have even some of the qualities of Ted Wingerd, then it is indeed an honor."

The award was made in the name of the late Edmund "Ted" Wingerd Jr., a prominent attorney in Chambersburg who had a "well-deserved reputation for ethical practice, concern for his clients, and complete integrity in his practice," said Steiger, his longtime friend and colleague.

After Wingerd's death in July 2001, an award was endowed by businessman and philanthropist Charles O. Wood III and his family. Wingerd was the Woods' attorney and close friend.

In establishing the award, Wood said, Wingerd "understood and honored the needs of his clients, and demonstrated the professional and personal deportment to address and serve those needs.

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"We know there are other attorneys in Franklin County who have those same characteristics, and we are pleased to join with the bar association in recognizing them and honoring Ted's memory at the same time," Wood said.

Steiger and Wingerd became friends as teens. Both graduated from Mercersburg Academy and Haverford College.

Steiger earned his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and Wingerd from Dickinson School of Law. Wingerd was the best man at Steiger's wedding.

Both men signed up for the Navy in 1942. Steiger spent four years at sea in the Pacific on the destroyer transport USS Brooks, APDT, and on the USS Cassin Young DD793 with the fast carrier task forces.

Steiger was admitted to the bar in 1946. His first client was the Mercersburg, Lemasters and Markes Electric Co., which eventually became Allegheny Power. While still in school, Steiger had worked on the company's line gang, he related, and "when I returned home after World War II they hired me as their company lawyer.

"Many of my clients were acquaintances for almost all my life," he said.

His practice concentrated on estates and real estate work.

A member of the Franklin County Bar Association for 56 years, Steiger was born across the street from the historic 200-year-old stone and brick dwelling that houses his law firm in downtown Mercersburg.

Steiger maintained a solo practice until 1973, when he was joined by his son, Thomas Steiger Jr. The firm is now Steiger, Steiger and Meyers. St. Thomas native Shawn Meyers joined the practice in 1995.

"Mercersburg stays pretty much the same," Steiger said in looking back at his years of practice in the small town.

At various times, he served the community as solicitor for Mercersburg Borough and several townships, school boards and municipal authorities.

"The biggest difference is that when I started practicing, there were 37 members of the Franklin County Bar Association. I knew them all."

Membership stands at 127.

Steiger lives on a farm, and cares for his cattle each morning before coming to the office.

He was president of the bar association in 1977-78. He is an active member of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mercersburg and has served on the Board of Regents of Mercersburg Academy, the boards of directors of The First National Bank of Mercersburg and the Mercersburg Development Corp. and as president of the Mercersburg Library Association. He is on the board of directors of the Mercersburg Financial Corp.

For 25 years immediately following WWII, he coached soccer at Mercersburg Academy.

Recipients of the biennial memorial award will receive a plaque; another is on display at the Franklin County Courthouse in Chambersburg. The recipient also will designate the monetary portion of the award to a charity of his choice.

Steiger has selected the Mercersburg Library, which is raising funds to expand its building.

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