She was a Mt. Gretna original, one of a handful of youngsters who grew up there in the days of kerosene lanterns and coal-fired stoves. Pat Pinsler, who inherited her love of Mt Gretna from a family that was involved in the community since its inception as Coleman’s Park, died quietly on Dec 23 in the company of close friends and family. Pat was born on St. Patty’s Day in 1927. She was 88 years old.
Pat spent entire winters in Mt. Gretna in her youth and graduated from Cornwall High School in 1945. She received an associate’s degree from Elizabethtown College then moved to New York City to pursue a career in dance.
Summers with friends and her sisters Mary Ellen McCarty and Jean Christ were alive with mornings atop the Governor Dick Tower (the wooden one), afternoons at the lake in itchy woolen bathing suits, and evenings along Rte. 117 in the teen mecca that everyone simply called "Midge's Stand." It was a different kind of world, one that Pat and her friends recalled in the summer of 2014 at a reunion with a difference.
"You have high school reunions and college reunions," said Pat, "but how often do you have reunions of people coming in from all over the world just to get together with the kids who shared their childhood?"
Pat lived her life with more enthusiasm and energy than several people combined. A family member describes her as living three lives in one. She was a dance instructor for Arthur Murray in New York City and a mother who created her own business while raising three sons on her own.
After 20 years of living in Florida and visiting home during short summer vacations, she could no longer stand being away from her beloved Mt. Gretna. In 1970, she returned to Mt. Gretna to live year-round. She purchased a cottage in 1971 and spent the last 44 years making it uniquely her own, “Pat’s Paradise.”
She spent her second career in Pennsylvania selling publications and advertising with Prentice-Hall and then with What’s Happening Now in Lancaster County. She finished her official career with WITF’s Central PA magazine.
After retiring in 1992, she set off on her next love – traveling. Gathering friends together, they sailed around the Caribbean islands. With her RV, she set off to follow a lifelong dream to see all the national parks of our beautiful country. For 15 years she spent winter months at a state park in Florida near her three grandchildren so she could watch them grow. She would volunteer four hours a day Monday through Friday, not in the office but in the field cutting vines, digging palmettos, clearing trails, and splitting cords of logs. Her counterparts, mostly men, would constantly ask her to slow down so they could catch their breath.
Pat continued traveling in her RV until she was 85. She also continued selling advertising for several publications in Harrisburg for a few months each spring well into her late 70’s. Her greatest love was always Mt. Gretna - the cottage, her garden and being involved with all the programs and activities. For years she was involved with the board for Harrisburg Theater and Gretna Productions and loved being connected to everything at the Playhouse – the music, shows and Chautauqua programs and the art show.
During the last few years her passion became the Mt. Gretna Historical Museum. The museum was a wonderful place to pour out all of her experience, knowledge, family legacy and her love for a unique community that her family considers more an entity than a place.
Pat is survived by her older sister Mary Ellen McCarty of Mt Gretna and a younger sister, Jean Crist and her husband Dick, of Pensacola, Fla. Pat is survived by sons David and Steve, both in Florida, and Jeffrey and his wife Jodi Sieber, who live in Henderson, NV. Pat has three grandchildren -- Megan, Kayla & Travis – all in Florida, and many friends in Mt Gretna and throughout the country.
A Celebration of Life service is planned in Mt. Gretna during the summertime, a time when Pat and her friends were always at their best.
Pat’s family would like to thank all of her wonderful friends who loved and cared for her so deeply especially during the last six months. We’re sure Pat is facing the next great adventure with the same enthusiasm as always. No doubt she has already inquired who is in charge of the gardens to offer suggestions and to get involved. In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Mt. Gretna Area Historical Society or Hospice of Central PA.