History of Hiram

My Grandfather Grandmother Frysinger History of Hiram Hiram James Frysinger Parents of My Father Great Grandparents of Galen Hiram James Frysinger Hiram and Irene Frysinger Hanoverdale Church George Frysinger More of Father

Hiram J. Frysinger and Irene K. Royer


Hiram J. Frysinger 1908-1997

Hiram James Frysinger was born on 11 Apr 1908, the first child of George M. Frysinger and Clara Belle Schaffner Frysinger. Birth was in their home in Oberlin, Swatara Township, Dauphin County, Pa. George was employed as a milk deliveryman.

When Hiram was two, the family moved to the Bonny Meade Farms dairy just north of the Harrisburg-Hummelstown-Hershey highway, east of Paxtang. The spring that Hiram turned six years old, his parents bought a farm between Rutherford Road and Union Deposit Road in Lower Paxton Township, Dauphin County. They packed their things in wagons and rode through the mud to their new home.

Hiram attended the one-room Mt. Pleasant School for seven years, then graduated from Lower Paxton Vocational High School in 1925. His favorite subjects were math and the sciences. For a vocational project, he raised some baby chicks and was soon selling eggs to customers on his dad’s door-to-door market route in Steelton. Hiram played baseball and basketball, acted in school plays, and was voted the most modest in his senior class.

His parents held a dream of education for their children, and Hiram always knew he would go to college. During his freshman year at Elizabethtown College, his classmates observed that Hiram was studious, his hobby chemistry, and his future in farming.


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Irene K. Royer 1909-1971

Hiram recalled, "In the opening convocation of my sophomore year, when all of the freshman were introduced, there was one freshman girl that I thought looked rather interesting . . ."

Irene Keller Royer [3] was born on 6 Feb 1909, the daughter of Clayton H. Royer [6] and Susan (Susie) Keller [7]. Clayton was a butcher in the village of Lexington, Warwick Township, in Lancaster County. When Irene was four years old, Clayton and Susie purchased a butchering business and the family moved to Neffsville.

Irene was an only child, quiet and studious. She excelled in all her studies, and gave the valedictory address at the "First Annual Eighth Grade Commencement of Neffsville Consolidated School" on 5 May 1922. Irene continued at the Neffsville School for her ninth-grade studies, then commuted to and graduated from Stevens High School, the girls’ high school in Lancaster. She took the Classical Course, and was elected secretary of the Honor Society. She was vice-president of her Junior Class, played tennis, and began debating. Her classmates quipped, "she drowned in deep literature." However, Irene was active in the Girl Reserves, enjoyed camping, and helped with the cattle at her dad’s farm.

Irene entered Elizabethtown College on 3 Sep 1926. Less than three weeks later, she had her first college date—with Hiram Frysinger. With many girlfriends and boyfriends, college was a time of fun and foolishness as well as study and seriousness for both Hiram and Irene. College provided opportunities for expanding horizons and developing leadership.

Hiram pursued his interests in math and chemistry. He remembered, "A. C. Baugher was my advisor. After my freshman year, he appointed me as his lab assistant. When he was away taking his graduate work I had the responsibility of packing everything from the old science lab and transferring it to the new Gibble Hall lab and setting up the laboratory."

Irene excelled in English and languages. She acted as "spokesman for the freshman girls." She resumed her interest in debating and became captain of the women’s team. She was a class officer and leader of several campus groups. Hiram enjoyed the intramural sports of basketball and baseball. Irene played basketball and "took the girls tennis championship of all classes" her sophomore year.

Hiram graduated from Elizabethtown in 1929 and accepted a teaching job at Landisburg, in Perry County. After one year at Landisburg, he obtained a position at his alma mater, Lower Paxton High School, and moved home with his parents. Irene graduated magna cum laude from Elizabethtown College, on 2 Jun 1930. With the benefit of library science courses taken in summer school at Millersville State Teachers College, Irene became certified to teach English, German, and Social Studies and "to act as Teacher-Librarian" Irene accepted an offer to teach oral English and have charge of the library at the Minersville High School in Schuylkill County, for $147.03 monthly.

Minersville was inconveniently far from both home and Hiram! On 24 Dec 1930, Hiram and Irene returned to Elizabethtown and were married by Hiram’s mentor, Rev. A. C. Baugher. After the holidays, it was back to school in opposite directions.

After finishing the school year, they went on a honeymoon trip through New England and Canada. They continued to live at Hiram's parents' home until their first son, Galen, was born. They then rented a home in Colonial Park for six months before moving to an apartment in Penbrook that they rented from the president of the school board. Hiram supplemented his teaching salary by driving a school bus. But in 1932, as the economy worsened, he had to give up the second job and his salary was reduced

The year 1933 was pivotal for Hiram and Irene. The Depression was in full sway, their second child, Anne, was born, and on December 11, Hiram was called to the free ministry in the Big Swatara Church of the Brethren. The method of selection was for those in attendance at the council meeting to write on a slip of paper the name of the person they considered most fit for the responsibility. The person with a plurality of votes was thus "called." One more major decision was soon made which set the pattern of life for the coming years. Hiram recalled, "In 1934, when Galen started riding the banister of the second-floor apartment, we thought we ought to look for a place, and that's when we moved out to Union Deposit Road to the 25-acre farm right next to my dad's." Hiram's father subsequently purchased all but five of the acres.

On these five acres, Hiram and the family raised laying chickens, eggs, and garden produce to eat and to sell door-to-door in Steelton, the route maintained with his father, brother, and the children. Hiram often commented that he used his school check to pay for the chicken feed and the chicken money to live on.

Hiram taught at Lower Paxton High School until 1942 when he accepted an offer to teach chemistry and physics at Hershey High School. He received a M.Ed. degree from Penn State in 1945 and gradually shifted to teaching in the Hershey Junior College. When it closed in 1965, Hiram became Professor of Chemistry in the Harrisburg Area Junior College.

Teaching science was but one facet of Hiram's life. There was a life-long commitment to service in the church. A "call" from the church to become a minister was heard as a call from God and was to be accepted. Hiram and Irene were installed into the full ministry of the Church of the Brethren on 8 Dec 1934. Hiram never felt that preaching was his forte. Partly because of Irene's involvement in and leadership of the Women's Debate team at Elizabethtown College, Hiram had tried out for the Men's Debate team. He made alternate, but remained alternate, and graduated from college with little experience in public speaking. He said he could only preach the way he taught. (However, once a school administrator observing his class commented that he talked too loudly—he sounded like a preacher!)

Without training in psychology or interpersonal skills, Hiram also realized his limitations in being a "pastor" to the congregation. However, being a minister provided opportunities for Hiram to use his impressive skills in organization, planning, and leadership. In 1940, he was ordained an elder. That year, Hiram assisted Irene in organizing and directing the first 2-week Bible School to be held in the Hanoverdale church. From 1943 to 1955 and from 1959 to 1970, Hiram served as elder-in-charge of the Big Swatara congregation. He was instrumental in the 1949 remodeling of the Hanoverdale church building. He organized a youth group and later enjoyed traveling with groups of young people to attend National Youth Conferences. In 1960, he initiated a summer day camp program at the Hanoverdale church.

Early mentors such as A. C. Baugher, R. W. Schlosser, and F. S. Carper had led the way to Hiram's involvement in District church work. With his background in natural science, Hiram was a strong supporter of the church camping program. A few hours after his son, Roy, was born in 1943, he was with a group surveying the site of the future Camp Swatara. He served on the Camp Swatara board about 25 years and was a camp counselor or director for about 75 weeks during those summers. His son Galen helped lay out the nature trails surrounding the camp. His youngest son Carl was often there with him, first as a kindergartner "helping" his dad build the West camping area. All of the children have fond memories of being campers, and later counselors, at Camp Swatara.

In 1943, Hiram was elected to the District Board of Christian Education and was appointed director of Sunday School work. This involved planning four full-day Christian education meetings each year. The Labor Day meeting was always with a mission emphasis. Hiram and Irene would meet the guest missionary speakers at the train in Harrisburg, entertain them in their home overnight, and take them to the meetings. Consequently, the family became personally acquainted with many of the prominent missionaries of the Church of the Brethren.

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Irene Royer Frysinger, 1953

Hiram served 12 years on the district board of Eastern Pennsylvania and was district moderator in 1958. He was active in the planning and creation of the tri-district office linking the Southern Pennsylvania, Eastern Pennsylvania, and North Atlantic districts. He was the first board chairperson of the new Atlantic Northeast District and had other responsibilities on that board for seven years. Perhaps the most significant district project was the District Filmstrip Library which Hiram and Irene founded in 1946 to provide audio-visual aids for the churches. The growing library took over much of the family home! Thousands of filmstrips and audio cassettes were purchased, a comprehensive catalog was written and published periodically, and up to 10,000 items were mailed each year to churches in all 23 districts of the Church of the Brethren, from Washington to Florida.

Irene worked with the district library committee. She was a frequent speaker at Mother’s Day and other events. From 1952–1957, Irene served as president of the Eastern District Church of the Brethren Women’s Work. Her interests reached into the community as well. She joined the local Farm Women’s group, and rose to become state president of the Pennsylvania Society of Farm Women from 1949–1953.

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Hiram Frysinger, about 1955

Hiram also became involved in the community. He had attended Lower Paxton Township schools as a student for eleven years and had taught in the high school for twelve years, and then, beginning in 1948, he served on the township school board for fourteen years. He particularly enjoyed gathering information from the school administrators, analyzing the data in terms of future needs, and interpreting these needs to the PTAs and public officials. During his time with the board, two large high schools and numerous elementary schools were built in the rapidly developing area east of Harrisburg.

Hiram and Irene suffered an emotional blow in 1967 when their younger daughter, Faye, died of cancer. Irene’s health began to deteriorate. She was a large, heavy woman and had cholesterol levels so high the cholesterol came out in "bumps" on her limbs. While hospitalized to have some bumps removed, she incurred a persistent staphylococcus infection. She lost function in one kidney. She had heart attacks in January and February of 1971 and died on March 20. She was only 62 years old. And Hiram had always figured he would be the one to go first.

Over the months that followed, Hiram renewed an old friendship with a college classmate of Irene's who had been recently widowed. Hiram and Miriam Frantz Wenger were married on 18 Sep 1971. They continued operating the filmstrip library until 1982, at which point it was turned over to son Roy and his wife Doris.

One of Hiram's last major undertakings was to provide a home for his old age! He was a member of a study committee to plan the Lebanon Valley Brethren Home, served on the building committee, and then on the board of trustees from 1975–1981. In 1982, Hiram and Miriam sold the family home on Union Deposit Road and moved to a home on the campus of the Lebanon Valley Brethren Home.

A hard-working, almost driven man, Hiram was not always easy to live with. He expected others to work at the level of intensity he preferred. He expected things to be done promptly and done well. Patience was never one of his virtues. The thousands of meetings he attended over the years left little time for traditional family life. He seemed to enjoy his children most when he was educating them. He read us the Sunday School papers while mother prepared Sunday lunch. We played Bible quiz games on the way to church. He took us on a wildflower search each spring. He tried to teach us the location of the constellations in the night sky. He taught us geography as we traveled. Usually in conjunction with attendance at the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference, each child was taken on an extended trip around the United States at least once. Hiram had an extensive stamp collection and encouraged his children and grandchildren to share this hobby.

When asked what had been the most fun in his life, Hiram hesitated a moment, then recalled one planning committee after another. He said he guessed he'd been a workaholic. His fun had been in the many opportunities to exercise his "vision of development." This phrase captures the essence of Hiram's major contribution to his church and community. Hanoverdale Church of the Brethren granted him the honor of minister emeritus in 1981. On 2 Oct 1993, he was awarded Elizabethtown College’s "Service to Humanity" award. An event at the Lebanon Valley Brethren Home on 2 Jun 1996 honored Hiram on the 50th anniversary of the District Filmstrip Library, and recognized Hiram’s significant contributions to Camp Swatara and the district.

A late developing adolescent, Hiram never did grow very tall. He was about 5 feet 7 inches, and of stocky build. Slim as a young man, his middle-aged weight was about 180 pounds. He had straight dark hair and gray eyes. Due to his Frysinger genes, his hair turned white in his early 40s. In later years, he allowed his crew cut to grow longer and wore a close-cropped beard.

Hiram’s high blood pressure was first detected in his teenage years, and he soon began taking medication for it. When 67, he had a serious angina attack which required hospitalization. From then on, medications increased and he carried his nitroglycerin pills to forestall heart attacks. In his late 70s, he began treatment for diabetes. About the age of 80, prostate problems and recurring angina attacks resulted in a series of hospitalizations.

Miriam had developed Parkinson's disease and her increasing disability necessitated her moving to nursing care in April 1990. In September of 1991, she suffered a debilitating stroke which left her paralyzed and unable to speak or eat. Miriam died on 14 Jan 1992.

Hiram continued to feel well (in-between angina attacks) and enjoyed reading, television, and attending the Hanoverdale Church. However, the angina attacks became more frequent and more severe. Successful bypass surgery helped mitigate the problem, but eventually Hiram decided to move to the personal care wing of the Lebanon Valley Brethren Home he had helped to build. The man who always liked to be in control was distressed when the decision to move into nursing care was made for him. He learned patience as his health deteriorated further. Hiram died on 20 Aug 1997, at the age of 89 years, four months, and nine days.

Hiram J. Frysinger [2] and his first wife Irene K. Royer [3] were buried in the Church of the Brethren Cemetery, Hanoverdale, Pa.

Text by my sister Anne

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