A decade ago, Lower Macungie Patch Editor Mariella Savidge, then a Morning Call reporter, wrote about a good deed by a Coplay man named Frank Dickman.
It was a couple of paragraphs at the bottom of a Coplay Borough Council meeting story.
Dickman was at the meeting in 2002 when a youth sports group sought help from the borough on maintaining athletic fields. During a long, emotional meeting in which parents feared their kids would lose out on a Little League season, Dickman said if the borough couldn’t find the money, he would take out a bank loan and donate it. Council decided a citizen shouldn’t have to do that and eventually came up with the cash elsewhere.
After the meeting, Mariella told Dickman that it was a nice thing he did. Then she wrote a story about the meeting, including Dickman’s generous offer, and promptly forgot it.
Fast forward 10 years. A few weeks ago, Savidge got an e-mail from Dickman, now 83. He had tracked her down and reminded her of the meeting and said that after her story he always looked for articles by her. In an e-mail, he praised Mariella and her work.
“Let me stop here with my ramblings,” he wrote. “Let me again say 'Thank You' for your kind words that evening. My action was motivated by our living in the closest thing to Utopia, Coplay. It has been good to us as a family and we will continue to pay back for all it has done for us over the years. We are deeply indebted.”
I think Mariella would have proposed marriage to Mr. Dickman on the spot if he hadn’t also mentioned he was wedded to his wife of 60 years, Ann.
Journalists, as a rule, aren’t accustomed to being remembered fondly, if at all. People we meet are more apt to say “You work at the …” and then light into us for the flaws they perceive in that particular media outlet or just the “lamestream media” in general. IRS agents have more fans.
But anybody who looks at Coplay Borough and sees Utopia has an interesting outlook on life so I gave him a call and we talked for a long time. A native of Summit Hill, Dickman went into the Army after school and he worked in New Jersey for a while before moving to Coplay.
To purchase their first home in Coplay in 1955, he and his wife Ann plunked down a $20 deposit on what was a $10,000 home. Later they moved to N. 5th Street where they raised their three children and still live today. “The only way they’re taking me out is feet first,” he told me.
Dickman worked for Bethlehem Steel for five years before getting a job at the Post Office in Coplay. He became postmaster there and then was postmaster in Slatington and Catasauqua before retiring in 1987.
Now, no one would ever confuse Coplay with Hawaii or the Swiss Alps, so I wondered why he thinks of Coplay as Utopia. To his credit, he never mentioned the scenery – it was all about the sense of community.
“We came into this place not knowing anyone,” he said. “We had wonderful neighbors.”
He and his wife became active in the borough with youth sports and other organizations. Ann Dickman ran the food bank in Coplay for about eight years. Today they write a blog called Coplay First at coplayfirst.blogspot.com.
In the movie “Field of Dreams,” a failing Iowa farmer played by Kevin Costner meets the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson on a baseball field Costner carved out of his corn fields. Jackson’s ghost asks: “Is this heaven?” And Costner famously replies, “No, it’s Iowa.” Eventually, he realizes it’s both.
Talking to Frank Dickman got me thinking about how easy it is to tear down. Machines and people do it every day. How many of us see the good in our communities?
And how many of us do as Frank Dickman did and seek out those who have been kind to us in the past to thank them?