Well-Known Businessman Orville Harford Lerch Passes Away at Age 85
In 1935, he was born to Quay and Hazel (Harford) Lerch, in Crafton, outside of Pittsburgh. Soon after, his parents returned to Clarion County in the midst of Depression-era losses. He was then raised on the Lerch family farm in Monroe Township.
Mr. Lerch was the fifth generation Lerch to be raised in Clarion County. His great-great-grandfather, William Lerch, was one of the earliest residents of Clarion County. He came to Reidsburg from the Delaware Valley, where his first-generation German ancestors fought for independence in the American Revolution.
Orville attended the Over School, a one-room schoolhouse through sixth grade where he and another student, Vern Meyers, of Surfside, South Carolina, began a friendship that lasted to his last days. He always expressed thankfulness for his upbringing on the farm where despite being poor, his parents created a warm and loving home life. Orville was a member of 4H and participated in Christian worship with his parents at the Monroe Chapel. He then attended Clarion Junior and Senior High School, graduating in 1953.
Attending Penn State University, he was the first generation to attend college, earning his degree in Forestry Engineering in 1957. Soon after, he took a job in Chicago with Sherwin Williams. After only four years, he left the security of the corporate ladder to return home to Clarion and start a life of service and reinvention.
In 1961, Mr. Lerch began teaching Algebra and Earth Science at Clarion Junior High. It was at this time that he used his summer breaks to serve tourists in Cook Forest by renting canoes and bicycles- driving tourists and their canoes upriver in a convertible. In 1964, he built the ice cream shop which is now known as the Cooksburg Cafe.
During this time, Orville also immersed himself in work for the Clarion County Republicans which led to serving as Chief of Advance for Lt. Governor Raymond Shaffer in his successful 1966 campaign for Pennsylvania Governor. The following year, he was married to Lucinda John Abernethy of East Brady and accepted a job as Deputy Chair of the Pennsylvania Republican Party. After the 1968 election of President Richard Nixon, Orville was given a Presidential appointment as the Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission. He worked for President Ford through 1976 but left Washington, D.C. for Clarion to reinvent himself. This time with a wife and four children.
After organizing grants to build the Verna Leith Sawmill Theatre in Cook Forest, Liberty Towers in Clarion, and the new Clarion Hospital, Mr. Lerch earned his MBA from Clarion University in 1981 at age 46. In 1983, he embarked on a new career as a Financial Advisor and Branch Manager by establishing a branch office of Pittsburgh-based Parker/Hunter Inc. in Clarion, now Janney Montgomery Scott. He loved the role of teaching his clients about finance and servicing them until his retirement at age 80 in 2015. Orville ran his financial advising business with his son Matthew Lerch since 1990 and was blessed with team members who are like family, including Carole Bachman and Beverly Lauer.
Orville continued to engage in community service. He was a longtime member and former Ruling Elder of the First Presbyterian Church of Clarion, a charter member of the Clarion Jaycees, a longtime member of the Clarion Rotary, and a former member and Chairman of the Council of Trustees of Clarion University. He was often most gratified with the occasional community projects he undertook in partnership with the late Paul Weaver who had a like-minded commitment to serving the needs of Clarion. In 2004, he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Clarion Area Chamber of Business and Industry.
Mr. Lerch is survived by his former wife, Lucinda Davis, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, his oldest son, Scott and wife Susan of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, his son Matthew and his wife Tammy of Shippenville, his daughter Tiffany and her husband Patrick of Washington, D.C., his son Brandon and wife Meghan of Woodbury, Minnesota, and his first cousin Evonna (Harford) Brim of Portland, Oregon.
Orville was the loving grandfather of nine grandchildren; Evan and Eric Lerch of Oklahoma, Nathaniel, Evelyn and Isaac Lerch of Shippenville, Cooper Lewis of Washington, D.C. and Avery, Adelyn and Lauren Lerch of Minnesota.
He is preceded in death by his parents Quay and Hazel of Monroe Township.
The Lerch children would like to express their gratitude to his loyal nurse and friend Billy Kucic and caregiver Gretchen Erickson. In addition, the family would like to thank Monarch Hospice of Lower Burrell who cared for Orville in his final days and made it possible for him to be surrounded by his loved ones as he went to be with the Lord.
Funeral services will be private. As per family wishes, a celebration of life will be held at a later date.
Arrangements are under the care of the Goble Funeral Home in Clarion.
Memorials may be made payable to the Clarion Rotary, for the Orville Lerch Clarion County 4H scholarship, named in honor of his beloved parents and for the benefit of rural children of Clarion County. Checks can be mailed to Clarion Rotary, PO Box 728 Clarion, Pa 16214.
Friends and family may send online condolences, order memorials, and obtain additional information by visiting www.goblefh.net.
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