Pa. man honored for volunteerism

November 04, 2003|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

Chambersburg, Pa. - Mention Wayne Mowrey around Chambersburg, and you'll hear, "Oh, I know Wayne. He's a wonderful man."

He's known for his musical talent, particularly on the organ, and for his community spirit. He even wrote Chambersburg's theme song, "Onward Chambersburg."

Mowrey's spirit of helping his community was officially recognized recently when he received the fourth annual Mike Waters Citizen of the Year award, which recognizes a person who in the last year or over a lifetime has contributed the most to the borough on a volunteer basis, Assistant Borough Manager David Finch said.

"Many people like and love the guy," Finch said. "All he's done for the borough makes him stand out."

"It was honoring and humbling to receive the award," said Mowrey, 80, who gave the credit to others.

"I do this because (his wife) Jane's mother was a giver," he said. "It rubbed off on Jane. I came from a family out in the country, and volunteerism wasn't a big thing then. I attribute what I do to Jane and her mother."


Wayne and Jane Mowrey met at Lebanon Valley College in the 1940s. From 1943 to 1945, Wayne Mowrey served with the U.S. Army ground forces in Iceland, where he played French horn and piano in an Army band.

He and Jane were married eight days after he was discharged. They have two sons, Gary and Joel.

After earning a master's degree in music education from the University of Pennsylvania, Wayne Mowrey studied at Pennsylvania State University, Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., Illinois University and the Peabody Conservatory. He taught music at schools in Lemasters, Pa., and Mercersburg, Pa., then was an associate professor of music at Shippensburg (Pa.) University from 1958 to 1980.

The Mowreys have been members of First Lutheran Church in Chambersburg for 54 years. Wayne Mowrey was choir director and organist there from 1949-1995. He now serves as substitute organist at several local churches.

Seated on a flowered couch in their light-filled cottage in Penn Hall retirement community, Wayne Mowrey talked about his life and his interests.

Several days a month, Wayne Mowrey takes his autoharp and Jane Mowrey takes nature items such as a bird's nest or an interesting bug, and they visit the residents of an Alzheimer's unit. When a resident is having a good day, he or she will sing along with the hymns and old favorites, and show interest in the nature items, Wayne Mowrey said.

While Jane Mowrey, 82, helps to prepare the food, Wayne Mowrey delivers Meals on Wheels a few times a month. They also volunteer at the Coyle Free Library, the Chamber of Commerce and the Council for the Arts, all in Chambersburg.

"I can't do enough for people," he said. "I think that's why we're in this world."

Wayne Mowrey also provides beautiful music for others. He attributes his love of music to a teacher he had in elementary school in Quincy, Pa.

"Hilda Hess of Waynesboro came around to the grade schools to teach music," he recalled. "I idolized her. She made me love music."

Well-known for his organ recitals, Wayne Mowrey said he no longer gives full recitals, but has put in cameo appearances at several in recent years.

Music is still vital to him, though. "Music gives me a feeling of contentment. It beings me closer to God and relaxes me. I am moved by listening to the oratorios, the great choral works. They fill my soul with greatness and goodness; they are so pure and soul-satisfying. Nothing gets you closer to your Creator than great music," he said, as classical music played in the background.

When he sits down at the piano to relax, he said he plays Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert, which his wife enjoys hearing. When they play a duet, it's usually a hymn or popular song.

His only way of "slowing down" in retirement is to turn down invitations to be on local boards, he said. "I don't want to be responsible for fund-raising. I've been there and done that."

Every Friday, Wayne Mowrey is a messenger at Chambersburg Hospital. "I needed an outlet, and it gives me exercise," he said.

Wayne Mowrey doesn't lack for exercise, though. He bikes, swims, walks, and does an hour of yoga, aerobics and boxing, along with Jane, from 7 to 8 a.m. each morning.

Togetherness is important to the couple. "We try to keep Wednesday as Wayne and Jane day, but sometimes it's taken from us," Wayne Mowrey said. "We get groceries, take side trips or stay home and watch a movie. It's a day for us to regroup."

But then it's back to their volunteer work.

"My main purpose is to be a helper to people," he said.

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