Universal York

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York WASP comes home

Reineberg window at St.Mary's Catholic Church

One of my posts not too long ago contained a link to the story of Mary Reineberg Buchard, a young podiatrist from York. Mary had developed a love for flying small airplanes locally, so when she heard about the World War II WASP (Women Airforce Service Program) she realized she could combine her passion with aviation with service to her country.

Mary closed her practice and joined the 1,100 other women who spent many hours in the air, ferrying aircraft and testing planes, freeing up male pilots for combat. Only fairly recently have these women been recognized for their service.

Mary passed away in California a few months ago, and yesterday, along with her family and friends, I attended her memorial service at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in York, the church in which she grew up and was married. I never had the privilege of meeting Mary, although I know some of her family members. I also share in the pride that her story is one of many of remarkable local women who made a difference, even in the days when their exploits were not the norm.

On a beautiful spring day, light was shining down through the window above–the right panel of which is inscribed “Gift of Edward Reineberg.” Edward was Mary’s grandfather, the founder of Reineberg’s shoe store 135 years ago. There’s a story there too–Edward Reineberg was a young Jewish Yorker who fell in love with, and later married, Mary Helfrich, whose German Catholic parents had come to York in the first quarter of the 19th century. Edward converted to the Catholic faith and became one of the pillars of St. Mary’s congregation.

(Mary Helfrich Reineberg’s father was prolific York cabinetmaker and undertaker Nicholas Helfrich. Some of his account books, tools and furniture are now in the collections of York County Heritage Trust–more on Nicholas Helfrich and his furniture later.)