Longtime Keller employee trained with Henry Ford
“I hired out for three months during the summer while I was off from business school. I worked for a farmer by the name of Bixler not far from the Midway church. He was the one that told me about Mark Keller needing help. Mark said, ‘You come work for me because the Pennsylvania Dutch make good sense to me and you make good sense to me.’ I kept the appointment to interview with him and he started me out hauling brick from Wyomissing to Buffalo Springs where they were finishing construction of the dealership.”
Thus began Jonathan Forry’s 67 years of employment with Keller Bros. Ford. Jonathan, at 100 years of age on June 6, spent well over half of his life with Keller Bros.
Keller Bros. moved from their old dealership on Mark Keller’s front lawn to the current Buffalo Springs location in Lebanon in 1930. That means that Jonathan Forry literally helped build the Keller Bros. Ford dealership from the ground up. Once the dealership in Lebanon was built and there was no longer a need for hauling bricks, Jonathan was employed by Keller as an accountant and salesman.
“Mark noticed my activity around the dealership. He noticed that I was active and that I wasn’t always sitting on my backside,” he recalled. “I was keeping busy. He said to me one day, ‘If you had the opportunity to run a dealership for me in another county – for example there is one in Lititz available for sale – would you do it?’ I said, ‘Well sure, but only if I can take my brother Dave with me, he is an experienced technician and he would be a delight to have as a service manager.’”
The Lititz dealership opened in 1940 with Jonathan running the show as general manager and Dave as the service manager. Jonathan also employed his brothers George and Harvey at the dealership after they returned from action in World War II.
Because he lost part of his leg in a motorcycle accident, Jonathan was unable to join the military. His daughter, Donna, elaborated saying, “When wartime came, dad couldn’t go because of his leg, but five of his brothers went into military service. While his brothers were in the war, he was helping their families. He was keeping their bills paid because he couldn’t fight in the war, but he wanted to make sure he helped. Then when some of the brothers came back they worked for him at Keller Bros. in Lititz.”
This dedication to family and friends, along with a willingness to work hard and adhere to the Golden Rule, was the source of his success.
“I personally asked Mark Keller to tell me the truth about everything he tells me. He said, ‘Well, I don’t tell lies I only tell the truth.’ We had a very good public relationship,” Forry said. “It was a pleasure to work for Mark Keller. He was a wonderful, fine Christian man. He would often stop by the Lititz dealership just to visit.”
Forry had another frequent visitor during his years running the Lititz dealership.
“Senator Henry J. Pierson was a very good personal friend of mine,” he said. “He came to visit me every morning before he left for Harrisburg. He’d be there very early. Sometimes he was on my doorstep before I was.”
Forry actually bought some property from Senator Pierson.
He explained, “One day he asked if I wanted to buy his cabin in Lititz. I said ‘Would you have an idea of how much money you want for it?’ He said, ‘If you really want it, I’ll let you have it for cheap.’ I bought it from him on the spot. We built a shuffleboard court there where we used to shuffle with employees and even customers. Sometimes until two in the morning, we loved it so much.”
Because Ford Motors required the managers of Ford dealerships to have special training, Forry also got to know Henry Ford.
“Mark Keller sent me to Detroit for a month,” he said. “Not that you learn everything in a month, but you get a lot of experience from Ford Motor Company when you’re in with them. Every morning I got there in time to meet Henry Ford coming out of the gate, sitting in a chauffeur-driven Lincoln. I met up with him that way many times.”
Forry is also a long-standing member of the Lititz Rotary Club.
“I still hold my membership to this day,” he said, proudly. “I had perfect attendance for 56 years. Rotary meetings were always held at the General Sutter Inn. Sometimes we held the summer Rotary banquet at the cabin I bought from Senator Pierson.”
Even with so many highlights to his long and accomplished life, Jonathan sill counts his work at Keller Bros. among his greatest. He said, “I worked for them until 1998, when I retired. Then I volunteered to train other people and worked without any salary. I continued to work there on the sly for a little bit even after 1998. I enjoyed my work.”
Merriell Moyer is a freelance feature writer for the Record Express. He welcomes your comments at email@example.com.