Richard D. “Dick” Lehr – Retires After 49 Years of Service to Aston Township
By Loretta Rodgers
During his 49 years of employment with Aston Township, Secretary/Manager Dick Lehr has seen it all- the good, bad, the happy and sad. But like all good things, with his retirement, his years with the township came to an end in December.
Lehr said even though he is retiring from his daily workload, he is not retiring from the many friends he has made in the township he loves.
“I know I will miss everyone so much,” said Lehr. “I have made some very good friends throughout my life and the majority are right here in Aston. This is the town I love and always will.”
Lehr was born and raised the Tremont, Pa. His family moved to the Garden City section of Nether Providence and then to the City of Chester. Lehr graduated from Chester High School at 18, married his sweetheart, Dot, and took his first “real” job at Lansdowne Steel. He remained at that job for a year and then began to work for General Steel.
Lehr began his career with Aston Township in 1958 in the public works department, where he stayed for five years. He then took a job at FMC Textile Fabrication in the research and development department, where he took home- study courses.
In 1971 Lehr came back to Aston as Township Roadmaster. He worked his way up to Township Secretary/Manager- a position he has held since 1987.
Lehr, a gentle, humble man, is extremely knowledgeable about his work- and Aston Township.
“Dick is a walking encyclopedia of facts about Aston,” said former Assistant Township Secretary/Manager George Needles. “Most people have to go to the Internet to find out about the township and all I have to do is ask Dick. He is truly one of a kind.”
Needles, who worked with Lehr on a daily basis, said he could not be working for a better human being.
“Dick is down-to-earth and very dedicated to this township and to his family,” said Needles. “He gives credit to everybody else, but it is Dick who keeps this township running, It is Dick who is very deserving of the credit. He is here very early in the morning, before anyone. As a matter of fact, Dick is up working in Aston before Aston is up and working.”
Lehr and Dot have been happily married for 57 years. The couple have five children, 17 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. Lehr said he most enjoys spending time with his wife and family, especially at the sporting events of his grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Lehr credits Dot with raising a wonderful family, stating that he was “always working.”
“In the early days, I was working two jobs,” said Lehr. “I’d be in the Aston public works garage during the day, then I’d go straight to my night job at the old Aston Gulf. Dot was the one who was with out children. I couldn’t have done anything without her.”
Lehr speaks proudly of his days with the public works department, adding at that time the township population was only about 5,000 residents. He said there was one dump truck and one pick-up which always had to be repaired.
Lehr said he and his fellow employee Charlie Paglione, spent much time repairing the township vehicles.
“We worked on something every single day because they were always breaking down,” he said. “If it wasn’t one of the trucks, it was something else.”
As Lehr moved up within the township, his personality did not change. He is obviously well liked and genuinely respected by his colleagues.
“Dick is a great person,” said Aston 5th Ward Commissioner Jim McGinn. “We have been good friends for a long time. Dick was here before me- and that’s saying something. He is a good friend and was a dedicated Township Manager. He knows more about Aston than anybody.”
In his job as township manager, Lehr was responsible for creating and implementing the annual budget, working with contractors, engineers and developers; and preparing reams of contracts and agreements.
When asked what has made him most proud over the years, after his family, Lehr calmly but confidently states it is the construction of the Aston Township Community Center and the dedication of the Veteran’s Memorial at Five Points.
“Jim (McGinn) and I worked hand-in-hand on the Veteran’s Memorial,” said Lehr. “We asked the owner of the gasoline station about using the land and it really worked out. As far as the Community Center goes, it was Rick Owsley who was behind that idea, and again I worked closely with Jim (McGinn). I am very proud of both of those projects. They have been very good for the people of the township.”
The gymnasium at the Community Center is named for Owsley, who died suddenly several years ago.
Lehr, who is a member of Mt. Hope United Methodist Church in Aston has also volunteered his time for any events including Aston Community Day where he can be seen every year cooking hot dogs and hamburgers. He is also a member of the Glen Riddle Rotary.
Lehr said he is looking forward to retiring but he is sure he’ll miss working for the township.
“This has been my life for so long that I know it will feel odd at first,” said Lehr. “But I am looking forward to relaxing. I will be around town- that’s for sure.”