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Chambersburg mayor dies

May 22, 2007|by DON AINES and JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Chambersburg Mayor John A. Redding Jr. died Monday afternoon, a week after undergoing his second heart bypass surgery.

"He truly loved Chambersburg and the Chambersburg area," friend Tom Donahue said. "He was exemplified by his civic service."

Redding, 75, was a borough councilman for almost 12 years before being elected to a four-year mayoral term in 2005.

"Everyone thought he was going to come home yesterday or today," Donahue said Monday.

"It was a shock. It's hard to realize that he's gone," said Bernard Washabaugh, a friend and former councilman.

Friends said Redding initially fared well after the May 14 surgery but had since acquired infections. His wife, Lois, notified some of the council members, and borough staff disseminated the information.

The borough council held its regular meeting Monday, with the Rev. William Harter delivering an invocation and memorializing Redding. Several people had to take time during the meeting to compose themselves.

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"I was left speechless," former Chambersburg Borough Council president and Franklin County Commissioner Samuel W. Worley said of learning of the death of his old friend. Over the years, he said, they were active in each other's political campaigns.

"I encouraged him to run for council," Worley said. "John was a very likable person. Low-key. A deep thinker. He always had something worthwhile to contribute to a conversation."

"Franklin County has lost one of its finest citizens," said County Commissioner Bob Thomas, who served on the council with Redding.

"His greatest legacy is that John was a wonderful conciliator," current Council President William McLaughlin said.

Redding was a calming presence in turbulent times, McLaughlin said.

Redding was the retired director of personnel, training and work-force development for the U.S. Army Depot System Command, a background that served him well as a member and former chairman of the board of directors for the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority.

"He worked at Letterkenny for years. He understood Letterkenny's mission," said LIDA Executive Director John Van Horn. "He was a liaison and a leader. He had a pretty good grasp of what we had to do in this project."

That project was converting about 1,400 acres of excess property at the depot into the Cumberland Valley Business Park, transferring part of the military industrial site to the private sector.

"He was on the advisory committee before LIDA even started," Van Horn said. Redding served as chairman for about six years and was still on the board of directors, he said.

"Even after he retired from Letterkenny, he was very interested in keeping Letterkenny open and the people there employed ... fighting the BRAC process over the years," Thomas said. The Base Realignment and Closure Commission transferred missions and workload from Letterkenny in 1995, but the depot has gained missions and jobs in subsequent BRAC rounds.

Friends said Redding, an avid Penn State University fan and golfer, could often be found at high school sporting events, enjoying football and baseball games.

"He was a Trojan backer for years," Washabaugh said.

Redding, a longtime usher at Corpus Christi Catholic Church, spent his early life in Clearfield County, but moved to the Chambersburg area in the late 1950s.

"He loved Chambersburg, took it to his heart, as people who knew John Redding" took him into their own hearts, Donahue said.

"John's a people person. You get to know him, and he's like family," Councilman Robert A. Wareham Sr. said.

"He wanted to see that Chambersburg ... would be a place we could all be proud of. It's a shame he didn't have more time in the mayor's office," Washabaugh said.

Redding especially wanted to see the police department thrive, Washabaugh said.

"He was a great man, a wonderful citizen," Donahue said.

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