Volunteer James L. Kercher Of English-speaking Union

Posted: October 01, 1986

James L. Kercher, a volunteer for more than a quarter-century for the Philadelphia chapter of the English-Speaking Union Foundation, died Monday. He was 62 and lived in Ardmore.

For more than 25 years, Kercher would come into Center City twice a week by train to work several hours as membership coordinator for the foundation with branch headquarters at 251 S. 18th St.

The English-Speaking Union is a non-profit international educational and cultural foundation founded in the United States in 1920 to further understanding, trust and friendship among English-speaking people of the world.

"He was a very special person. He gave so much of himself and his time," said Nancy L. Hoyle, executive director of the foundation. "He was conscientious and a very loyal person."

Kercher had an "incredible memory" for details about the more than 1,000 people on the membership rolls, said Hoyle. "He had done the membership renewals so long that he could remember specific things about members."

Serrill Headley, a niece, said, "Uncle Jimmy was a kind, gentle man, who lived quietly and who helped a lot of people quietly."

A soft-spoken man of courtly manner and old-school propriety, Kercher had a dry sense of humor which he employed sparingly and always with great care to avoid offending anyone.

Kercher was a bachelor who enjoyed watching television, especially public television, and in earlier years had done considerable traveling. He would amaze co-workers at the foundation with his almost total recall of events and places of those trips. Hoyle said, "He was a person who lived each experience to the fullest."

He attended Episcopal Academy.

He is also survived by a sister, Frances Headley; two nephews, William and Coleman Headley, and another niece, Frances Hundt.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday at the Church of the Redeemer, Pennswood Road, Bryn Mawr. Burial will be in Darby Friends Cemetery, Upper Darby.


Emidio "Ben" DiBenedetto Jr., chief of maintenance and construction for Philadelphia's park system, died Monday. He was 55 and lived in Overbrook.

DiBenedetto had worked for the Fairmount Park Commission for 33 years. He was an Army veteran and an active member of the Del Val Morra League and the Overbrook Club.

He is survived by his wife, the former Josephine Meehan; a son, Emidio 3rd; a daughter, Theresa Grasso; three grandchildren; a brother, Charles; and two sisters, Anna Manginelli and Ida Forte.

Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Laurence Roman Catholic Church, West Chester Pike and St. Laurence Road, Highland Park, Delaware County. Burial will be in Ss. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Sproul and Crum Creek roads, Marple Township, Delaware County.

Friends may call between 7 and 10 tonight at the Robert L. D'Anjolell Memorial Home of Overbrook, 6506-20 Haverford Ave.


Gertrude E. Vela, active in veterans organizations, died Sunday. She was 60 and lived in Folcroft, Delaware County.

A resident of Folcroft for the past 30 years, the former Gertrude Reidt was a member of American Legion Post 507 in Norwood and was a former deputy representative to the State of Pennsylvania. She had served as a volunteer at veterans hospitals in Philadelphia, Coatesville, Valley Forge and Perry Point, Md.

Among the honors and awards she received for her work was the Chapel of the Four Chaplains award.

She is survived by her husband of 41 years, Joseph J. Vela; two sons, Anthony S. and Joseph P.; a daughter, Jennie M. Falone; three brothers, David, Arthur E. and Donald Reidt; three sisters, Dorothy Brown, Marjorie Forrester and Irene Reidt; and seven grandchildren.

Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. George's Roman Catholic Church, Lamont Avenue near Chester Pike, Glenolden. Burial will be in Ss. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Sproul and Crum Creek roads, Marple Township, Delaware County.

Friends may call after 7 tonight at the White-Luttrell Funeral Home, 311 N. Swarthmore Ave., Ridley Park, Delaware County.


Services were to be held this morning for Joseph J. Russo, a retired compositor, who died Saturday. He was 81 and lived in East Lansdowne, Delaware County.

Originally from Philadelphia, he had worked as a compositor for the printing firm of Smith, Edwards, Dunlap for more than 50 years. He lived in East Lansdowne for the past 43 years. He was a member of St. Cyril's Roman Catholic Church.

His wife of 50 years, the former Philomena Mancini, died two years ago.

He is survived by two sons, Ralph J. and Joseph T.; two sisters; and three grandchildren.

Mass of Christian Burial was to be celebrated at 10 a.m. at St. Cyril's Church, Penn Boulevard, East Lansdowne. Burial will be in Ss. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Sproul and Crum Creek roads, Marple Township, Delaware County.

Contributions may be made to Our Lady of the Rosary Church, 63rd and Callowhill streets, Philadelphia, Pa. 19139.


Mary J. Varlack, a retired physical education teacher, died Saturday. She was 70 and lived in Philadelphia.

The former Mary Jasper, she had taught at various schools in the city for more than 20 years. She was a graduate of Philadelphia High School for Girls and Temple University.

She was a life member of the University General Alumni Association, the

College H.P.E.R.D., the Women's Athletic Club of Temple and the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees. She was a charter member of Twigs Inc. and belonged to the Church of the Crucifixion.

Requiem Mass will be at 11 a.m. Friday at the Church of the Annunciation, 12th and Diamond streets, where friends may call after 9:30 a.m. Burial will be in Eden Cemetery, Springfield Road, Collingdale, Delaware County.

Contributions may be made to the Hospice of Pennsylvania Hospital, 8th and Spruce streets, Philadelphia, Pa.

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