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Irwin man put the sing in spring

Mary Pickels
| Sunday, Feb. 13, 2005

Raymond H. Kalberer's children spent their youth knowing their parents would be busy every January through March or April.

"We knew not to plan anything then," John Kalberer recalled, laughing, "because the show must go on."

"The show," in this case, was the annual spring performance by the Irwin Male Chorus.

Raymond H. Kalberer, a resident of Redstone Highlands, North Huntingdon, formerly of Irwin, was a 40-year member of the chorus. He and his wife, Ann Rawlings Kalberer, designed the elaborate stage sets for decades.

Kalberer, 85, who died Thursday, Feb. 10, 2005, also served on the Irwin Borough Council from 1986 to 2001. He was remembered by friends and family for his long-term cultural contributions and civic duty to his community.

"My dad worked as a display man for West Penn Power Co. for 47 years," his son said.

At that time, every small town had a WPP office and storefront. Kalberer traveled throughout western Pennsylvania, designing, producing and installing electrical displays in the office windows.

A 1937 graduate of South Hills High School, he attended night classes at the former Carnegie Technical School for drawing, lettering and design.

His son also attended Carnegie Mellon University. A grandson is currently enrolled, with another to follow this fall.

His father never claimed to be a great singer, Kalberer said.

"He used to joke that they just let him in to help build the sets," he said.

"They were very involved in the shows," he said of his parents. "I used to tell people it really was a lot like our family was on Broadway every spring, like being in show business."

After retirement, his father decided to run for borough office. He served four terms.

"He really felt strongly that you give back to your community," he said.

The family also had a freelance business building Christmas designs for regional mall displays.

"We would arrive at a mall as it was closing, and assemble it overnight," Kalberer said. "And that's where Santa Claus would sit."

His father, he said, was never one to take center stage.

"Mom was happier being backstage," he said. "Dad was more of the social butterfly. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't think he was a nice guy. I think that's his legacy. That's the kind of person I try to be."

"He and his wife were outstanding," recalled Ron Harkleroad.

Harkleroad is secretary of the Irwin Male Chorus.

They worked on the elaborate stage sets, he said, sometimes up to the night of a performance.

The concert, now presented at Westmoreland County Community College, used to be held on the stage of the Norwin Senior High School auditorium.

"We all jumped in to help cut cardboard, which (the Kalberers) designed," he said.

Failing health led the couple to slow their participation in the chorus and set construction about five years ago, he said.

"He was a very quiet man, very subdued in his conversation," Harkleroad said. "You rarely heard him raise his voice. His wife was the same way. They were always together. They were just such a wonderful, heartwarming family."

Raymond H. Kalberer was born Sept. 8, 1919, in Pittsburgh, a son of the late William J. and Frieda A. Fuss Kalberer. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by a daughter, Kristin Shore; and a brother, Wilbert Kalberer.

He is survived by his wife, Ann Rawlings Kalberer; a son, John Kalberer and his wife, Becky Gediminskas, of Irwin; a son-in-law, Sheldon Shore, of Quincy, Ill.; and four grandchildren, Jacob G., Alex G., and Rachel A.G. Kalberer, of Irwin, and Samantha Shore, of Quincy.

Friends will be received at the William Snyder Funeral Home, 521 Main St., Irwin, today from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. A funeral service will be held Monday in the funeral home. Interment will follow in Irwin Union Cemetery, North Huntingdon. Masonic services will be held Sunday at 8 p.m. in the funeral home. Those wishing may contribute to Norwin Public Library, 100 Caruthers Lane, Irwin, PA 15642.

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