Alfred S. Groh, 92, Kingston, PA, dramatist, educator, poet, and founder of the Fine Arts Fiesta, passed away peacefully February 4.
“A man if he is taught from youth/Devotes his life to seeking truth…” - Alfred S. Groh
Al Groh was a graduate of Bucknell Junior College, Syracuse University (which he completed in 18 months, enabling Groh to enter the Army Air Force in March 1943), and received his post-graduate education at Columbia University. As a young man, he was a B-17 Army Air Force gunner who flew 50 missions over World War 2 Europe, earning Groh a Certificate of Valor in recognition of courageous service in aerial combat. This soldier rarely spoke of his harrowing war exploits, despite surviving near fatal airplane battles that included the wooden seat shot out from under him, and, on another occasion, his oxygen tank strapped to his suit shattered by enemy shrapnel. Al returned safely to the Wyoming Valley after the War to devote the rest of his long and storied career to the Arts and building a more enriched Northeast Pennsylvania.
Mr. Groh was the founder of the Wilkes University Theater Arts program that, in its early beginnings, staged productions in the late 1940’s in the Chase garage of then Bucknell Junior College. As a young faculty member, Groh worked closely with Wilkes’s first President, Eugene Farley. He helped draft Wilkes’s original vision and mission statements. Mr. Groh was instrumental in convincing the benefactor Dorothy Dickson Darte to gift millions of dollars to build a state-of-the-art Center for the Performing Arts, a now-timeless Center where he staged hundreds of musicals and plays encompassing a 50 year period at both the Darte Center and Chase.
He was a founder of the Wilkes Summer Theater Workshops, an opportunity for high school students to build theater arts skills, and a subsequent model for high school and college theater workshops nationwide.
The Wilkes Concert & Lecture Series, directed by Al, brought acclaimed artists to Northeastern Pennsylvania over the decades. Long before the Kirby Performing Arts Center, the Wilkes C.P.A. was the venue to attend for major cultural and theatrical events.
As a young man, Groh began writing poetry, a passion that lasted until his final day. When his eyesight failed him, his active mind still wrote poems by dictation, remarkably remembering each word by heart. Hundreds of verses for children of all ages - “I’m a Penguin/You’re out of luck/You can’t be one/Because you’re a duck” - were published by Groh. Numerous books of poetry were published that inspired the reader to combat indifference, see the healing power of the Arts and the wonder of the world around us. Al collaborated with the regional publishing and fulfillment company, Karol Media, to create the Alfred S. Groh I’m a Poems Collection for the Classroom.
Alfred Groh believed that the Arts in all their form can heal and enrich a community. Annette Evans and Alfred Groh were the founders of the Fine Arts Fiesta, the oldest free full-scale arts festival in Pennsylvania. Groh partnered with David Fendrick’s original one-character play, Citizen Tom Paine, at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.
For over 50 years, Groh, as one student remarked, “… taught an approach to theater and an approach to life. He taught us to ‘suspend disbelief.’ ” Othello, Camelot, The Death of Bessie Smith, An Enemy of the People, H.M.S. Pinafore, Blithe Spirit, The Lion of Winter – these were just some of the plays and musicals Groh directed over the decades. Many of his former students went on to highly successful careers in the Arts. As one former student put it, paraphrasing Al’s words, “he… placed in our souls some ‘images of magnificence.’ “
Al was a 50 year Mason and a long time Shriner.
Alfred S. Groh was devoted to, and beloved by his wife, Jane Kathleen Lampe Groh, former Dean of Students at Wilkes University. He was the loving son of Jacob Groh, admired Ritual Director of Temple Israel, Wilkes Barre, and Ethel T. Groh, watercolorist, centenarian, of blessed memory, and brother to Barbara Groh Imbriglia, of blessed memory.
Groh is survived by his adoring wife, Jane Kathleen Lampe Groh, niece, Alison Kovalchik, Shavertown, PA, nephew, Christopher Miller, Lehman, PA and many grandnieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be conducted at the Wilkes University Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts, West River Street, Wilkes Barre, on Thursday, February 7th, at 12 noon.
Shiva will be held at the Groh home, 63 Pringle Street, Kingston, on Friday, February 8th, from 2 pm to 4 pm.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Fine Arts Fiesta, at www.fineartsfiesta.org, or the donor’s choice.