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Gerald Francis Reidenbaugh Sr.

PFC in 3132nd Signal Service Co : 4th Platoon

ASN#33511348 Casualty: Wounded

Born 1925 in PA, Died 1994


County of residence at enlistment: Lancaster County, PA
Other residence(s): Lancaster, PA; Berwick, PA; Syracuse, NY; Forestport, NY; Greensboro, NC
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
Occupation before the war: student
College education after the war: Syracuse Univ. (BA, MA, PhD)
Notes: Recipient of Purple Heart
Source: W. Anderson Notes; 3132 Caption List; Sonic 4th Platoon, 1944; 3132 Pine Camp Photo Names; photo courtesy Syracuse University yearbook, 1949

Gerald Reidenbaugh was born on February 9, 1925 in Lancaster, PA, the middle of three children. His father worked as a feed and fertilizer salesman.

Gerald graduated from Upper Leacock High School with honors in 1943, serving as business manager of the school newspaper. He had registered for the draft on his 18th birthday, a few months before graduation, and he enlisted that summer, on July 1, 1943. He was eventually assigned to the 3132 Signal Service Company and went to Europe with the unit. He lost the first joints of three fingers on his left hand in a Normandy booby trap, and was awarded a Purple Heart. He was discharged from the Army on November 25, 1945, and returned to Lancaster where he demonstrated his thespian skills—appearing in two local productions within six months—one at the Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Lancaster and one in a YMCA production.

He then used his GI Bill benefits to attend Syracuse University, majoring in drama, and graduating magna cum laude in 1949. He received the School of Speech and Drama drama award, the Kappa Sigma senior award (for being the outstanding senior in his fraternity), and the senior scholastic award. He also served as president of Boar's Head, the student dramatic society at Syracuse, and was a member of Tambourine and Bones, the musical comedy society. He spent two seasons appearing at the Oneida Castle Summer Playhouse.

After completing his undergraduate work, he went on to earn a master’s degree from the university in 1951. His master’s thesis was an original play, My Heart Don’t Say So, a drama about the Pennsylvania Amish. (He himself was from a Pennsylvania Mennonite family.) He married Elaine Hager a few months before receiving his degree. After graduating, he joined the faculty at the School of Speech and Drama.

Gerald rehearsing with a community group, the Conestoga players, in 1950; photo courtesy of The Sunday News, Lancaster, PA

While he was in grad school, he taught drama in various settings. This included offering acting and drama appreciation courses at Syracuse, as well as teaching in a community summer program called The Conestoga Players, and he was a guest lecturer in Syracuse high schools. He also participated in radio and TV shows in Syracuse, and gave public readings of Shakespeare.

Gerald and Elaine became the parents of a son, Jonathan, in 1952, but the marriage was short-lived. Gerald remarried, to Shirley Ann Fenner, on June 16, 1956. She was a 1954 Syracuse graduate, and an actress; in the summer of 1956, after their honeymoon, they both joined the resident company of Famous Artists Playhouse in Fayetteville, NY for a season of summer stock.

Gerald and Shirley would go on to have two children: Gerald Jr. and Melissa. (Melissa would eventually carry on the family tradition, becoming a professional dancer and actress in New York City.)

Gerald gives notes to a group of Syracuse students after a rehearsal; photo courtesy of the Syracuse Stage website

Gerald would remain on the faculty at Syracuse until 1990. He earned his Ph.D. in Communications from the university in 1966, became chair of the drama department, and later served as associate dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

During his theatre career, he directed and acted in more than 250 professional theatrical productions, directed summer stock, and was the artistic director of the Syracuse Repertory Theatre, later known as Syracuse Stage. He was managing director of the Famous Artists Country Playhouse in Fayetteville in 1959 and 1960, and acted in some of their productions. In 1963, his Reidenbaugh Ensemble theatre presented a program at the Little Theatre in Watertown, NY, and he returned the following year with a troupe of his students who put on a production of The Plough and the Stars.

He continued to write plays; an original play of his, The Strongest, was optioned for Broadway in 1957, but never produced.

He served as a judge in the 1966 Miss Thousand Islands pageant (part of the Miss America competition). He was an adviser and past director of the NY State Community Theatre Association, and became director of the association's series in Henderson in 1972. In 1975 he received the Mary Eva Duthie Award at the association’s annual conference for his contributions to community theater.

According to the biography on the Syracuse University archives website: "Reidenbaugh was passionate when educating students of all ages about the theater. In 1982 he worked to develop a Shakespeare program at Corcoran High School in Syracuse, named the Corcoran Shakespeare Company, which he directed until 1989. The program was designed to improve the English language skills of high school students through the study and performance of a classic Shakespeare play. Students would study a chosen play for a number of weeks in conjunction with an English class and then work with Reidenbaugh to perform the play for their community. The popularity of the program is a testament to Reidenbaugh’s commitment to his students, no matter their age or educational background."

He also helped to develop the Thousand Islands Summer Theatre in Alexandria Bay, NY.

After retiring in 1990, the Reidenbaughs divided their time between Greensboro, NC and Forestport, NY. Gerald was a member of the board of the North Carolina Touring Theater Ensemble in Greensboro.

A 1993 North Carolina newspaper carried a column which included excerpts from a lovely letter Gerald wrote about his relationship with his typewriter.

"Presently I sit before my trusty, vintage Smith-Corona. You may wonder why I refer to a typewriter as trusty. Well I've fought to hang on to it since my Dad bought it for me in 1946 [when Gerald started his college career]. I view it as partly human. I trust it, but it doesn't trust me—because I use it so badly. Old typewriters just don't seem to understand loyalty from their abuser.

"Having something to say, the user bangs upon it, curses it, caresses it, laughs with it, lies with it, pretends with it . . . and a whole range of other emotions. That's it! It allows for the writer's emotions to be expressed upon its keys. A writer can respond with great loyalty to such a hospitable machine. And the machine permits outpouring of emotion. In this sense, it is alive. Can you say the same about any electric typewriter or word processor? No!"

Gerald died on July 9, 1994 in Greensboro, and is buried at Buena Vista Cemetery in Brodheadsville, PA. His papers can be found in the Syracuse University archives.


1930 census

1940 census

1942 article in The Ephrata Review (PA) about his being on HS newspaper staff

1942 article in The Ephrata Review (PA) about his being on the honor roll

1942 high school yearbook

1943 draft card

1943 enlistment record

1944 article in the Lancaster New Era (PA) re his being wounded in France

1945 article in the Lancaster New Era (PA) re his returning home from Europe

1946 article in the Lancaster New Era (PA) about his playing the lead in a local production

1946 article in the Lancaster New Era (PA) about his role in a local production

1948 article in the Intelligencer-Journal (Lancaster PA) about his college career

1948 Syracuse yearbook

1949 article in the Lancaster New Era (PA) about his college graduation

ca 1950 US Mennonite vital records

1950 Pennsylvania Veterans Compensation File

1950 census

1950 article in The Sunday News (Lancaster PA) about his education and career

1951 first marriage announcement in the Lancaster New Era (PA)

1956 second engagement announcement in The Pocono Record (PA)

1956 second marriage announcement in The Pocono Record (PA)

1966 article in the Syracuse Post-Standard (NY) about his being artistic director of a new theatre group

1966 article in the Syracuse Post-Standard (NY)—he is judge in local Miss America pageant

1974 article in the Syracuse Post-Standard (NY) about a dramatic role

1983 daughter's wedding announcement in the Post-Star (Glens Falls NY)

1991-1992 US Public Records index

1993 article in the News and Record (Greensboro NC) about a letter he wrote about his typewriter

1994 obituary in the Lancaster New Era (PA)

1994 obituary in the Watertown Daily Times (NY)

1994 Find a Grave record

1994 Social Security applications and claims index

1994 VA death record

2015 wife's obituary

Syracuse Stage website

Syracuse University archives (includes a biography)

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