Deppen Day will finally salute man who has helped so many

Published: 8/11/2017 10:00 AM
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MOUNT CARMEL — Julie Griffiths became involved in the distribution of funds bequeathed to Mount Carmel residents from Joseph H. Deppen 35 years ago.

Knowing how many people he has helped, she always wanted to celebrate his legacy.

Finally, that’s going to happen: The inaugural “Deppen Day” is scheduled for Saturday at Town Park.

“For years and years I wanted to do this,” Griffiths said. “I thought, it’s time. It really is.”

It’s easy to understand why she is so inspired, considering what Deppen has done for his hometown:

• His endowment at his alma mater, Bucknell University, continues to fund scholarships for qualifying Mount Carmel students, as it has since 1964.

• He left money with Lankenau Medical Center in the Philadelphia suburb of Ardmore for the health care of needy Mount Carmel residents. Services can range from surgery at Lankenau to routine visits to Mount Carmel area dentists and eye doctors.

• And he left money for the maintenance of Town Park — making it an appropriate location for Saturday’s event.

1900 Bucknell graduate

Deppen died Jan. 24, 1963, at age 88 after being hospitalized for two weeks following a hip fracture he suffered outside the Northumberland County Courthouse. A single man, his obituary described him as one of the oldest practicing attorneys in the county. His law office was located at 32 N. Hickory St. in Mount Carmel, and he lived at 109 S. Chestnut St.

Deppen was a 1900 graduate of Bucknell, where the Deppen Scholarship, a trust of $1 million, remains active today. It was established as the Gertrude J. Deppen Scholarship Fund in memory of Joseph’s sister, who graduated from Bucknell in 1902. Language from the 1960s is still contained in the university’s description of qualifying students being “those who have resided in Mount Carmel for 10 years, who are graduates of Mount Carmel Public High School, who are not habitual users of tobacco, intoxicating liquor, and narcotics, and who do not participate in strenuous athletic contests.”

Also through Deppen, Bucknell awards scholarships to full-time graduate students through the Voris Auten Scholarship Fund, if there are funds available from these endowments after awards have been made to undergraduate applicants. Deppen had studied law in the office of Judge Voris Auten in Mount Carmel.

Frugal and giving

Among the many Bucknell alumni who have Deppen to thank for their education is Kim Moncavage Kondracki, a 1985 Mount Carmel Area graduate. Her mother, Donna Moncavage, among those on the Deppen Day committee, remembers Joseph and Gertrude from her youth.

“They lived on Chestnut Street and we lived right around the corner,” she said. “Mr. Deppen walked through Town Park on the way to his office.”

He often wore the same suit and shoes, and Moncavage was told by her mother and grandmother that the Deppens still used kerosene in their house when nearly everyone else had switched to electricity. Joseph Deppen had a car, but rarely used it.

“They were really frugal,” she said. “It’s great for Mount Carmel and the people who live here,” she said about the endowments, “but the Deppens didn’t live a very luxurious life.”

Moncavage was young when Joseph Deppen died, but by the time her daughter was in high school, she was aware of the scholarship.

“I said to her, you’re applying for the Deppen Scholarship or you may not be able to go to school,” Moncavage recalled. “You know, she thanks me to this day.”

Tuition and room and board were covered; even 30 years ago, it amounted to some $50,000 after four years, Moncavage said. She noted that her daughter nonetheless worked while in college and during the summers.

Kondracki can’t attend Saturday, but sent a letter that will be read to the audience in which she thanks the Deppen Scholarship for a successful career that started with the “happiest day of my life” upon learning of her acceptance to Bucknell.

“His foresight resulted in a legacy that has helped many residents over the decades,” writes Kondracki, who has worked in business, education, with nonprofits and in the entertainment industry, and has lived in New York City, London and now Los Angeles. In 2011 she earned a master’s degree from Ryder University. “All of this was made possible because of Mr. Deppen’s Scholarship in this small town.”

Moncavage, now 70 and on Social Security, noted she is also a Deppen fund recipient for dental care, which isn’t covered by Medicare.

“I think there are a lot of people in Mount Carmel today that wouldn’t know (about the money),” she said. “But for the older people who went to school or go to Lankenau or to the dentist or eye doctor, I’m sure they’re very appreciative. I know I am.”

Grateful people

Griffiths isn’t sure why Deppen left money with Lankenau, but she has served as the liaison between the hospital and local doctors since 1982. She said there are 150 active applications for Mount Carmel residents who are receiving eye and dental care through the Deppen funding at Lankenau.

Griffiths said eye doctors and dentists are aware of the funding and make recommendations for those with limited funds or insurance options. Patients can receive up to $750 per fiscal year for eye or dental care.

Recipients must have lived in Mount Carmel for at least five years, and Griffiths knows of some people who have actually moved to the borough because they know they can get that financial help in due time.

She said it’s been about two years since anyone has gone to Lankenau for any kind of treatment, but she knows of borough residents who have gone there for chemotherapy and knee injections, “whatever they need.” They can even have their mileage reimbursed.

Lankenau, a major health facility that employs some 1,800 full-time workers, was made aware of Deppen Day. They can’t send anyone this year, but Griffiths expects the hospital will be represented in 2018.

At one time, the Deppen fund paid to dispatch a taxi to Lankenau to bring back medicines for enrollees, who would pick up their prescriptions at the taxi office, Griffiths said.

Having Deppen Day to salute this enduring legacy has led some people to contact Griffiths with their appreciation. She received letters that produced goosebumps.

“People are just so grateful,” she said.

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