Alma Elizabeth (SWOPE) GRONINGER

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Alma (Swope) Groninger
Contributed by rkohler3 on 7/26/11 - Image Year: 2007

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Alma Elizabeth Swope was the daughter of H. G. and Myrtle (Downs) Swope. She was born June 14, 1911 and died October 18, 2009. She graduated from Port Royal High School in the Class of 1928. She was married to Franklin "Frank" Luther Groninger.


PORT ROYAL - Alma E. Groninger, 98, of Main Street, Port Royal, died at 1:31 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18, 2009, in the emergency room of Lewistown Hospital.

Born June 14, 1911, in Normal, Ill., she was a daughter of the Rev. H.G. Swope and Myrtle (Downs) Swope Meyer. Her husband, Frank L. Groninger, preceded her in death on April 27, 1985.

Surviving are: a son, Robert D. Groninger and wife Sherrie, of Millerstown; four grandchildren, Arbie J. Groninger, Frank L. Groninger, Alma E. Groninger and Don D. Groninger; and five great-grandchildren.

She was the last of her family, having been preceded in death by a sister, Naomi Swope Mitchell.

Alma was a 1928 graduate of the Port Royal High School and a 1933 graduate of Rust Hall Girls School, Washington, D.C.

In early life, she was a teacher, an admitting clerk at Lewistown Hospital and co-owner of Spruce Hill Lunch.

Mrs. Groninger retired from the Juniata Valley Bank, Port Royal after 12 years of service.

She was a member of the Mexico United Presbyterian Church where she was an organist for many years and also at the Rex Funeral Home. She also regularly attended the Thompsontown Baptist Church.

Services will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2009, at Rex Funeral Home, Port Royal, with Pastor Ted Kostich and Pastor Crystal Lyde officiating. Interment will be in Adams Cemetery, Walker Township, Juniata County.

Family will receive friends from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday at the funeral home.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Mexico United Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 387, Port Royal, PA 17082 or the Building Fund of the Thompsontown Baptist Church, 269 Birch Drive, Thompsontown, PA 17094.


by Carlen McClure

There's a verse of a hymn that says, “Our God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come; our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home.” Turns out it's Alma's favorite hymn.

My lifelong friend Alma Swope Groninger will soon be leaving Port Royal to move to her son's home in Millerstown.

Alma was born June 14, 1911 to Rev. H. G. and Myrtle Downs Swope Meyer in Normal, Illinois, along the Mississippi River. Alma's father, being a Methodist minister, meant that the family had to move nearly every year. Alma can remember every school she ever attended. Alma's first and second grades were spent at Commercial Point, Ohio, outside of Columbus. Third grade was at Carroll, Ohio, 4th grade they lived in Hillard, Ohio, 5th grade was in Quincy. Then two years in Elmore, Ohio, near Port Clinton and Toledo, the year Alma was fifteen was spent in Huntsville, OH. And that year Alma nearly lost her mother to goiter surgery, with a long recovery. In 1926 they would travel 50 mites to a White Cross Hospital in Columbus for her mother's treatments.

The family came by train from Shrewsbury to Port Royal. Alma remembers “Ep” Flood’s parents, the Naylors, having a big supper for them when they got off the train. Alma would graduate from Port Royal High School Class of 1928.

After graduation Alma would attend the Lucy Webb Hayes National Training School in Washington, D.C. and graduate in the Class of 1933.

It should be noted that Lucy Hayes was the wife of President Rutherford B. Hayes, and that Lucy started the school with many courses being in nursing and social services.

Alma's great aunt, Matilda Reeves was in the first graduating class of 1887. Matilda was a life long deaconess in the city of Baltimore.

Alma's courses were in social services, and Old and New Testament history. After a civil service exam, Alma worked for the Dauphin County Office of Public Assistance. Alma left that position during the war and began work at Central Iron and Steel. Alma subsequently went to work for Middletown Air Depot (now HIA) as a civilian guard.

Alma would be assigned to Jim Roe's platoon. Jim was originally from the Spruce Hill area. Roe was a grandson of “Cal” Flickinger. The Flickingerers and Roes attended or were members of Matamoras Methodist Church, where Alma's father, H. G. Swope was a pastor. This would be during the late 20s.

It was at Middletown that Alma would meet her husband Frank Groninger. One of Alma's duties was to guard Eleanor Roosevelt's plane. Alma patrolled every area at the depot, to include the paint shop, the parts shop, where parachutes were made, and the hangers themselves. Alma also stood guard where the personal effects of fallen soldiers were brought to be dispersed to their families. Alma said she loved to watch the B-38s flying in to land. The landing area was called an apron. She worked there nearly three years.

Alma relates how the Farm Show Building was pressed into service during the war. Among other things, engines were painted and repaired there.

Frank was later transferred to Signal Corp on South Cameron Street. After the war Frank worked for his brother John.

Alma and Frank Groninger married in 1943. After their son Bobby was born Alma became, in today's terms, a stay at home mother.

Alma said when she and Frank married, she only wanted to move one more time – that translated into eight more moves for Frank, Alma and Bob. They began housekeeping in Pennbrook, then moved to Aqueduct in Duncannon where Frank briefly owned a sporting goods store. They moved to Mexico with Frank's parents, Ed and Ella Groninger to help out with Frank's mother. Frank's father had died and his mother had been in a serious accident. Alma's mother-in-law went on to live another twenty years. The next move would be to Walter Smith's farmhouse on Cedar Spring Road. Then they moved to Dogtown to perhaps Bob Slautterback’s home.

After Bobby went to school Alma went to work in the office at Lewistown Hospital.

In 1959 Frank and Alma purchased the Spruce Hill Lunch and they were there until 1964.

Alma muses, ''While I don't take much stock in astrology, I'm a Gemini, and Geminis are known to always be on the move and generally don't stay put.” Alma said, “Carlen, prior to getting married, the longest I ever stayed in one place was the three years I spent in college in Washington, D.C.”

After Spruce Hill Lunch they moved to the third floor apartment of Admiral Crawford's old farmhouse. Alma and Frank lived there 22 years. Frank and Alma lived with her mother, Myrtle Meyer on Fiddler's Green until the third floor apartment was finished.

Frank died in 1985. In 1987 Alma moved to a first floor apartment in the Groninger Apartments where she still lives.

Alma had a younger sister, Naomi Mitchell, who married during the war and lived in Madison, Wisconsin. Naomi is deceased.

Alma was a member of Fifth Street M.E. Church in Harrisburg. When they moved here in 1953 Alma went with Frank's mother to Mexico Presbyterian, and later joined, and is still a member. Alma still plays the organ every other Sunday.

Alma studied organ in college. She began playing at age 12. She taught Sunday school, Bible study, and vacation Bible school. Back then Bible school lasted three weeks, but she says now the kids don't have more than about three days to devout to Bible school. When asked what the biggest change was in her 95 years, she remarked, “The down side would be the moral decline of our entire country, and on the upside of that, are the young people who are diligently seeking the Lord. Concerning technology, the Bible says, knowledge will be greatly increased. And it doubles every year. Technology is good, but we abuse and misuse it - money is not bad - the love of money is.''

She says, ''We worship and serve the same God, but we serve with our gifts in many different ways.'' Alma's favorite scripture is a verse she was taught as a little girl and has committed it to memory – Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and redeemer.”

Alma will be 96 in June and is nearly blind from macular degeneration, but she has a spirit that doesn't quit. For quite a few years Alma has played the organ by feel. And while her next move will be to her son's home in Millerstown, Alma will have one final move one day. – A shelter from the stormy blast and her eternal home – where she will be called to rest from her labors, and hear her Master say, “Well done thy good and faithful servant.” And no doubt Alma will say, “O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”


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Contributed by rkohler3 on 11/8/09 - Image Year: 1928
This photo shows Alma Elizabeth Swope in her Port Royal High School Yearbook, Class of 1928.

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