LAKE TWP.: Bruce Heisler’s roots run deep in the community he has called home for his entire life — some 81 years.
He and his wife, Kathryn “Joann” Heisler, who met while attending Uniontown’s K-12 school, live in an area of Lake Township that Bruce Heisler’s ancestors helped settle in 1815.
A self-admitted “picker” of anything relating to the history of the Uniontown community, Heisler finds a place in either the couple’s home or its historic outbuildings to display them.
“He brought home an old coal shanty, added a porch and made it look like a playhouse,” Joann Heisler said.
He points out that the building, which now sits in the couple’s backyard, held coal back when homes used it for heat.
The community will celebrate “Bruce Heisler Day” from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Grace United Church of Christ, 13275 Cleveland Avenue NW. The program is sponsored by the Lake Township Historical Society.
The family’s place in Uniontown dates back almost 200 years when an ancestor, Reuben Garl, sold 12 acres for $180 on the west side of town to a businessman who divided the land into 30 lots to build homes, Heisler said.
Garl was descended from John Stephen Garl, a German who settled in the area after the American Revolution.
Heisler said he began writing down his memories on a yellow legal pad in 2008 while reminiscing about long-gone friends and businesses.
“I thought, ‘I’m just going to write down these things so kids growing up would know a little about the town,’” he said.
After filling dozens of such pads, he gave them to historical society members who reorganized the chapters and its many old photos before secretly having it bound into a 64-page book titled Uniontown My Hometown 1932-2013 As I Remember It, Greatest Place on Earth. The book will be available for purchase at the Saturday event for $15.
At the event, organizers plan to turn the attention on Heisler as he has spent much of his time focusing on the town, said Dennis Benson, vice president of the 200-member Lake Township Historical Society.
“Bruce has been a community leader throughout his entire life. He and his wife, Joann, have been involved in the preservation of history in Uniontown. His book is a priceless recollection of growing up in a small Midwest town in the 1940s and 1950s. This day is to honor Bruce and Joann and to introduce his book to the community at large,” Benson said.
The walls of the couple’s two-story Edison Avenue home are covered with newspaper clippings, metal and iron antique utensils and posters from 1927 and 1928 advertising movies at the Uniontown Town Hall staring the likes of John Barrymore and Tom Mix.
For many years, the couple hosted third-grade students from Uniontown Elementary School to share the living history of their community.
Heisler takes them back to the 1940s when, at their age, he took on the role as the community’s first “garbage man.” His plan involved pigs to raise some cash.
“I’d drive around town on Saturdays in my pony cart and pick up garbage for $1.25 a month; then I’d take it home and feed the pigs for a whole week,” Heisler said.
The stories that fill the book are illustrated with photos and newspaper clippings of some of the area’s biggest events.
Surprisingly, the Uniontown Savings and Loan had been a favorite target for robbers, most of whom were local men, Heisler said. One of them, a Green Township man, was caught after robbing the bank twice.
“I guess he was not smart enough to get rid of the money bags,” he said.
Heisler retired in 1994 from the family-owned Uniontown Electric founded by his father. Today, the Heislers’ son, Edward Heisler, runs the company.
The couple, who have been married for 56 years, have four children and 10 grandchildren. They expect many of them to join them in the event to honor the man known as “Mr. Uniontown.”
The book was just one more way Heisler has helped his hometown, said Ruth Sturgill, event coordinator and trustee for historical society.
“Bruce is a real person — just a special guy — with the kind of personality that make people like him. He has given all the rights to his book to the historical society,” Sturgill said.
Proceeds from the book will assist the historical society.
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.