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Editorial: New museums pay deserved tribute to Berks legends

Berks County certainly has its share of famous names who resided here, from Daniel Boone to Taylor Swift. It’s a long and impressive list.

Last Saturday people in our communities had two opportunities to celebrate two of the area’s most noteworthy people: acclaimed author John Updike and World War II legend Gen. Carl A. Spaatz.

The best news is that residents and visitors will now be able to learn more about both men’s life and times thanks to local attractions established in their honor. There were ceremonies Saturday to mark the opening of a historic site at Updike’s childhood home in Shillington and a museum named after Spaatz in his native Boyertown.

The modest white house where Updike once resided is now a museum. It’s quite fitting and long overdue to have an official attraction here in honor of the writer. Though he moved away from Berks County as a young man, his experiences here are reflected in some of his most famous works. Those who want a better understanding of his writing stand to benefit tremendously from taking in the atmosphere that influenced him so profoundly.

The museum opening was accompanied by the unveiling of a historical marker by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, an enormous honor in and of itself. And “Rabbit Run” signs have been placed along a nearby stream that’s been named after the novel that launched Updike’s career.

Those who don’t understand just how big Updike is in the literary world should consider that the museum was founded by the John Updike Society, which has members in 35 states and 17 countries.

Updike, a novelist, poet, short-story writer, art critic and literary critic, was one of only four writers to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction more than once. He died in 2009 at age 77, but his work continues to resonate with readers.
Dr. James Schiff, vice president of the Updike Society, told the audience at the museum opening that he expects it to become a spot on the global literary tourism map, like Ernest Hemingway’s Key West, Fla., home or Charles Dickens’ home in London.

The new attraction in Boyertown also should attract a crowd, considering the ongoing interest in World War II and military history.

The General Carl Spaatz National U.S. Army Air Forces Museum features a self-guided, immersive World War II-era experience.

Spaatz, a key figure in World War II and the establishment of the Air Force, certainly deserves a tribute in his hometown. It’s great to see an effort to preserve his life and legacy and remind people what a man from a small town can accomplish. But what makes the museum even more noteworthy is its emphasis not just on the general but on ordinary people who served in that terrible conflict. Spaatz’s relatives say he would have wanted it that way.

As Boyertown Mayor Marianne Deery said at the museum dedication, the story of a general certainly is compelling, but so are the experiences of the people who served in other roles during the war.

“Some came home and some didn’t,” the mayor said. “The men and women that served, as well as those men and women who serve today, solidifies in my mind the guts of the Boyertown area. It is my hope that young people become inspired by what’s in this museum, behind these doors, that they will continue the heritage that has been laid right before them.”

These two museums should become must-see attractions for people visiting our area and those who live here. Their arrival is a welcome development as our community works to reestablish itself as a destination for tourists in this less restrictive phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. With popular destinations all around us — greater Philadelphia, Hershey and Lancaster to name a few — these attractions should make it more enticing for people to take a short drive in this direction. Our community can build on it from there.

We congratulate all of the people who worked so hard to bring about this great news and urge readers to support their efforts.

Source: Berkshire mont

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