Ione Geier

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April 11, 2014

Ione Geier, an award-winning journalist and chronicler of local history, died Friday at Schuylkill Center, Pottsville, in the presence of her family.

Besides a four-decade career at The Republican-Herald and its predecessors, she served as vice president of the Pottsville Free Public Library for many years. She was also a board member of Schuylkill County Children and Youth Services and was active in many professional, civic and social organizations.

For The Republican-Herald, she highlighted important events in the lives of mostly everyday Schuylkill Countians, from an amateur ballroom dancer to two young Jehovah Witnesses whose refusal to say the Pledge of Allegiance led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision. She started at the paper in 1970 as a contributor to the lifestyle section and freelance feature writer and for many years was a weekly contributor to its Saturday "Weekender" section. Later, she became a columnist, sharing memories of her family and friends as well as her observations about life then and now.

She herself was a frequent target for her humor, in columns on subjects like her love of chocolate, a bout of writer's block and her near-helplessness when it came to throwing anything out.

She combined her love of writing and repositories of knowledge by self-publishing a collection of her articles and columns in a book, "Schuylkill Stories," in 2011. All proceeds from its sale go to the Pottsville and Frackville libraries and the Schuylkill County Historical Society.

For the Schuylkill County Council for the Arts, she researched the history of the houses on Mahantongo Street from Centre Street to 15th Street and conducted walking tours that were part of three John O'Hara conferences.

Born in Frackville, Nov. 9, 1927, she was a daughter of Stephen Kotch, a developer and coal mine operator, and his wife, the former Margaret Bonin, who had been an embalmer at her family's funeral home.

She graduated in 1945 from Frackville High School, where she was editor of the yearbook and school newspaper. She attended Cedar Crest College, where she also edited the newspaper and graduated from Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia with a degree in philosophy and religion.

She returned home and got a job with the former Shenandoah Herald, where she wrote a weekly gossip column called "From under the Drier." She became a court reporter, in part because her editor thought it would be amusing to have a young woman in that position. However, she earned her colleagues' respect and longtime friendship.

She left journalism to marry Joseph Lilienthal, a lawyer who shared her love of learning and bridge, in 1952.

After his death in 1966, she began writing professionally again, first for a weekly newspaper and then The Republican-Herald. In 1972, she married John Geier, a Pan American World Airways pilot who was also involved in several local businesses. The Geiers were regulars at the Pottsville Club and Schuylkill Country Club until John died in 1995.

In 1998, the Pottsville Business and Professional Business Women's Club named her distinguished woman of the year, a surprise that left her speechless. She also won several awards for her writing, including first-place honors from the Pennsylvania Society of Newspaper Editors. Her letters to the editor were published in the New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer.

Besides her articles, she was an avid letter writer. Even though she had mastered email, she still liked to send newspaper clippings and witty notes in her trademark fuchsia envelopes with matching commemorative stamps.

Her many friends describe her as "a real lady," "a mentor," "a fine neighbor," "true confidante," "great listener," "caring," "kind," "sharp and interesting," "truly charming," "sensible and calm" and "inspirational."

She is survived by her daughter and son-in-law, Lisa and Walter Von Ahn; son, Stephen; sister, Madeline Kerrigan; nieces, April Wytovich, Dr. Marge Epstein and Jean Tahaney Quinn; and nephews, Dr. Neal Epstein and Ned Epstein. Her family also includes nephew-in-law, Ed Wytovich; nieces-in-law, Dr. Deborah Warden and Collette Lueck, great-nieces, Stephanie Potter, Christen Wytovich and Sarah Wytovich; and great-nephews, Daniel Epstein, Max Epstein and Seth Lueck-Epstein.

Visitation will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Schlitzer Allen Pugh Funeral Home, Sixth and Market streets, Pottsville. There will be calling hours at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the chapel in the Charles Baber Cemetery at 14th and Market streets, followed by a Celebration of Life service at 3 p.m. and then by burial in the cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Pottsville Free Public Library, 215 West Market St., Pottsville, PA 17901 or Public Radio Station WRTI, Annenberg Hall, Philadelphia, PA 19122. Please visit to leave a private condolence for Ione's family.

Funeral Home
Schlitzer Allen Pugh Funeral Home
6th & West Market Sts.
Pottsville, PA 17901
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Published in Republican & Herald from Apr. 13 to Apr. 14, 2014