Harry A. Focht (1939-2019)
Harry A. Focht passed away peacefully at Premier at Perry Village October 23,
2019. He was born June 2, 1939 on the Shreiber farm in Buffalo Township, the son
of Harry G. Focht and his wife A. Elizabeth Freeland. He graduated from Newport
High School in 1957 and from Waynesburg College in 1964 with a B.A. in history.
While at Waynesburg he assisted President Paul R. “Prexy” Stewart in collecting
petrified wood, minerals and fossils for two summers at the Florissant Fossil Beds in
Colorado. He retired from Harvey L. Gladstone, Inc., manufacturing confectioner,
Hummelstown, where he was general manager. Interested in family history from
his youth, he founded the Freeland Reunion in 1957 and co-authored a history of the
Freeland family in 1971.
In 1976 he co-founded The Perry Historians, a genealogical based historical
organization, along with Jerry A. Clouse. In the following years as a life member he
generously gave of his time and resources to the Historians. Harry zealously
gathered records for the Historians’ library which led him to collect Perry County
related church records, taufscheine (baptismal certificates), newspaper records,
ledgers, and manuscripts. He led a small band of helpers who methodically copied
the tombstone inscriptions of Perry County and adjoining counties for posterity. For
40 plus years he was a driving force of the Historians, and his legacy includes the
Lenig Library and Hoverter Archives where future generations can not only
research family history but other aspects of Perry County’s rich cultural and
With Clouse, he co-authored Perry County: A Pictorial History in 1978, a pioneering
work which garnered statewide recognition. He authored many articles for in The
Perry Review. Most notably, he wrote the 1995-98 Perry Review titled, “Geburts=
und Taufscheine: Illuminated Pennsylvania German Birth and Baptismal
Certificates,” which featured a history of their use and the valuable information
they reveal about a family’s history. He was honored with a plaque by the
Historians in 1994 for his dedication as a genealogist and benefactor to the
organization. Although his last work was the 2014-15 Perry Review which he
compiled with James Kapp, he assisted Clouse in the 2016 Pennsylvania Dutch folk
art exhibit at the PCCA and in preparing calendars up until last year.
He also had a long interest in the preservation of Caroline Furnace and greatly
contributed to its purchase in 2011 by the Historians. He was recognized by the
Bicentennial Committee of Perry County on November 18, 2018 for his lifetime
achievement in the preservation of Perry County history and his efforts in
establishing a library where research on county families and related subjects can be
done on a regular basis.
He fondly recalled working on his grandfather “Tabby” Freeland’s farm and on the
Red Hill farm of Bill Shatto in his youth. Although making hay and threshing were
hard work, he enjoyed the simple pleasures of eating Pharlee Neidigh’s home-made
pies during harvest time. Sunday afternoon was a time for storytelling at the Shatto
farm, and this is where he first heard stories of the Miller pottery, another longtime
He was a member of Incarnation U.C.C. Church of Newport where he was baptized
and confirmed. He also held life memberships at the Juniata County Historical
Society and the Evangelical and Reformed Church Historical Society of Lancaster.
He is survived by his sister Joyce A. Galic of Newport. He is also survived by
nephews Doug Galic near Marklesville and Craig Galic of Camp Hill; by niece Lisa
Galic near Enola; and his longtime friend Jerry Clouse of Newville. The family
wishes to thank the nurses at Premier at Perry Village for Harry’s loving care for
nearly two years.
Services will be held Saturday, November 9 at the Incarnation UCC , Newport, with a visitation from 10 AM until
the Memorial Service at 11 AM. Burial will be in the Newport Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, contributions
are requested to Perry Historians, PO Box 73, Newport, PA 17074 or Incarnation UCC,
PO Box 68, Newport, PA 17074.