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Reading of the 23rd Psalm in Pennsylvania German a highlight of Sunday’s Community Worship Service at the Kutztown Folk Festival

“Der Herr ist mein Hirte; mir wird nichts mangeln.”

The congregation that assembled Sunday morning for the Community Worship service at the Kutztown Folk Festival may not be as well versed in the Pennsylvania German language as their forebears, but in their minds they followed along in English as centenarian June DeTurk recited the 23rd Psalm in the dialect.

June’s reading of the Psalm has been a tradition at the services since they began in the early 1990s.

And June herself is a tradition at the festival as she has participated in some way from the very first one in 1950.

“The first years, the churches all had food stands,” she said as she waited for the service to begin. “I waitressed for St. John’s United Church of Christ and served string beans and ham.”

Over the years, she acted in productions of Amish pageants and helped her late husband Lewis at his wood-carving stand.

Her main role, though, was to tell the story of the doomed Oley Township servant girl Susanna Cox, who was hanged in Reading City Park in 1809 for the murder of her illegitimate infant.

“I climbed the 13 steps of the gallows up and down 27 times during the course of the festival,” June said.

“That’s been discontinued,” she added, a bit ruefully.

As a participant from the start, the 100 year old (“and seven months!”) has witnessed the many changes that have taken place over the years.

“We’ve lost so many of the really old Dutch people that lived the life,” June said. “Those people were authentic. They grew up as Pennsylvania Dutch people here, and now they’re disappearing.”

But the festival will always have a place in June’s heart.

“I love my town,” she said, “and the festival has been a wonderful thing. People now know where Kutztown is, not just between Reading and Allentown.”

June is looking forward to more years of reciting the Psalm at the service.

“I’m 100 years old in number,” she said with a laugh. “In body, mind and spirit, I’m not.”

And after all, June’s mother lived to be 106.

“… und ich werde bleiben im hause des Herrn immerdar.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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