Did you know Spotlight PA is a nonprofit? Learn more about our nonpartisan journalism »
Skip to main content
Main content

Pa. has a Voter Hall of Fame. Meet the inductees.

Plus, a Fallingwater doppelgänger in the Pennsylvania Wilds.


September 16, 2022
Inside this edition: Fallingwater's doppelgänger, pawpaw party, the making of a litterbug, Fringe dating, and Pennsylvania's Hall of Fame voters. 
ALL KIDDING ASIDE, there is a really important election coming up on Nov. 8, and Spotlight PA reporters have your back. 

We're dedicating more resources than ever to make sure voters know the candidates and where they stand on the issues that matter most. 

We know you care about the future of our state, and we know you understand what's at stake in this election.

Support Spotlight PA's non-partisan reporting and put your money to work at this critical moment to help fellow Pennsylvanians make an informed vote. We can't do this work without you.

As a special bonus, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism has offered to match every single dollar you contribute as part of this campaign, meaning your money will go twice as far.

Will you join the effort and make a gift now?

Thank you for your support!

— Colin D., PA Post editor

In light of this week's minor league baseball unionization news, does anyone know the name of the minor league team that called Punxsutawney home for two seasons in the early 20th century? 

(Keep scrolling for the answer, but don't miss all the good stuff in between. Like what you read? Forward this email to a friend.)

» One thing worth knowing: There's a Fallingwater lookalike called Lynn Hall in the woods of McKean County, high atop Pennsylvania's Northern Tier. PAWilds.com has the photos and origin story.

» One thing worth doing: Remember pawpaws from last week? Well, in my haste to turn out a tasty Q&A with expert Sara Bir, I forgot to mention the pawpaw festival that returns to York this month.

» One thing worth tattooing: I don't have any tattoos, but if I did, I would quickly add this image from a '60s-era anti-littering campaign linked to a group of angry Pennsylvania gardeners, per The Allegheny Front. 

» One thing worth seeing: Every year Pennsylvania hosts a statewide art contest called Art of the State, and this year's winners were announced last week. See their crafts, paintings, photos, and sculpture here.

» One thing worth reading: Billy Penn's Sammy Caiola went on the blindest of blind dates at Philly's Fringe Fest— a pairing based only on their choice of performance — and says everyone should try it.

» COVID-19 UPDATE: Your guide to finding resources on cases, vaccines, and tests

» How Spotlight PA will cover Pennsylvania’s 2022 election

» You’re invited! Pa.'s election chief answers your questions live

» Your complete guide to the candidates for governor

» LGBTQ bill pits parents rights vs. student welfare

» Pa. protects marijuana patients at work — until it doesn't

» Clandestine plan to force a gift ban vote falls apart

» Penn State creates a new VP position during hiring freeze

» Private Penn State trustee meetings may violate law
(Scotty Perry / Bloomberg)

Gareth Biser of Gettysburg hasn’t missed a November election since he cast his first vote for a presidential contender named Dwight Eisenhower in 1956.

Biser will turn 87 on Nov. 2, six days before this year’s pivotal midterm election. He said nothing short of an act of god will keep him from the polls.

The Army vet and former professor is something of a voting luminary, his unbroken streak having earned him a spot in Pennsylvania’s Voter Hall of Fame alongside 23,773 other balloters who went at least 50 consecutive cycles without missing a single November contest. Municipal elections, midterm elections, presidential elections — they’ve done it all.

PA Local spoke to more than a dozen of Pennsylvania’s Hall of Fame voters from geographically and politically diverse corners of the state. 

A number declined to be named in this piece. Almost all of them — members of the Silent Generation — were supremely matter-of-fact when discussing their accomplishments. 

“I see here that you voted in 50 straight November elections…” I said to one on the other end of a scratchy landline connection. Their response was immediate: “Yes… and?"

Some started casting ballots when the voting age was still 21. Others began around the time of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, which protected the right for millions of disenfranchised Black people nationwide. 

There were common threads in their responses to the question “Why has your voting record stayed so flawless?” They said voting was a responsibility and a right, or, at a minimum, a means of preserving your standing to complain if you don’t like an outcome. (The issues motivating their votes this year are less uniform.) 

Betty Ann Nichols, 91, of Allegheny County grew up in a bipartisan household — one parent a Democrat, the other a Republican. “But they hardly ever went to vote,” she recalled. Nichols, a longtime poll worker and Hall of Fame voter (class of 2004), took the opposite approach.

(Tom Gralish / Philadelphia Inquirer)
In Philadelphia, Hall of Famer Barry Lebowitz (class of 2017), who came of age as a voter in the Vietnam War Era, recounted several mad dashes to the polls on Election Day and several near misses.

“But I always made it,” he added nonchalantly. “They were always open until 8.”

May Boland, 86, also of Philly and the class of ‘17, said she uses her Hall of Fame status to proselytize now: “I encourage my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to vote.”

Husband and wife Shirley Bentzel, 84, and Glenn Bentzel, 86, of Gettysburg, were inducted in 2012 and have kept the streak going, only now they do so by mail. 

“I will continue to vote as long as I can,” Shirley added.

Most of the Hall of Famers who spoke with PA Local said they didn’t apply for the recognition themselves (but you can). Instead, they were nominated by state representatives, fellow election workers, or fellow members of a local political party committee. 

(The first members of the Voter Hall of Fame were inducted in 1982.) 

Many reflected on the changes they’d seen over five-plus decades of voting: their own political affiliations, voting methods, the intensity of the political climate, and voting rules — The Inquirer reported that a 2012 update to Pennsylvania’s voter ID law threatened to keep one-quarter of all living Hall of Fame voters from casting ballots. The law was later struck down.

Other changes have been more concrete.

Douglas Boden, 86, of Gettysburg was inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside his wife, Eunice, in 2014. Eunice died in January of last year from Alzheimer’s disease. 

“Of course I miss having her to vote with, of course I do,” Douglas said by phone. “When I go to the polls now, I never fail to think of her… very very much.” 

“We were very proud," he said of he and his wife's Hall of Fame inductions, which are noted on a state-issued certificate that he keeps displayed in the study of their home. "As you go through life, you do the things you need to do and want to do and have to do, and you don’t think much of it. Then sometimes it catches up with you and you say ‘My goodness, we didn’t miss any [November elections].’ And we looked back and were happy it worked out that way.” 

Boden, who has never missed a primary either, jokes that he’s a “Hall of Famer on steroids.”

Asked if there’s an election in his decades-long voting career that stands out, he only goes a few years back to the presidential contests of 2016 and 2020. 

Elections have always been rancorous, he said, but the contemporary tone and fallout are increasingly unrecognizable to him.

“You used to have an election and afterward the contestants were cooperative, in most cases. I see that being eroded now.” 

He’s looking to future Hall of Famers to carry the mantle and “vote their conscience.”

Learn more about Pennsylvania’s Voter Hall of Fame here. Find inductees here.

Colin Deppen, PA Local editor

Two rainbows for the price of one in Clearfield County, via Don H. Send us your photos, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.

The minor league baseball team that called Punxsy home starting in 1906 and ending in 1907 was the Punxsutawney Policemen. 

It joined a league with teams from Bradford, DuBois, Erie, Hornell (New York), Kane, Oil City, and Olean (New York).  

The Policemen were named for the state police barracks located there, one of the first after the agency's controversial, anti-union launch in 1905

Thanks for reading PA Local! We'll see you back here next week. But first ... send us your feedback. What did you like? What didn't you like? 

Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

Copyright © Spotlight PA / The Philadelphia Inquirer, All rights reserved.

Spotlight PA
228 Walnut St., #11728
Harrisburg, PA 17108-1728


You're receiving this email because you subscribed to PA Post, which has combined with Spotlight PA to create Pennsylvania's largest statewide newsroom dedicated to accountability journalism.

This email was sent to: <<Email Address>>

You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.