The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 21, 2013

Couple honors their mothers’ commitment to learning, service


— A local couple has created a permanent memorial to their mothers by establishing a fund at the Beckley Area Foundation. The Frances Wise Lemke and Evalyn Bobo McNeill Memorial Fund will generate discretionary income for the Foundation’s Annual Community Grant Program.

This is but one way that the donors, Thomas Franklin Lemke and his wife Sally McNeill Lemke, have given back to the communities where they have worked, lived and retired.

Tom commented, “Both of our mothers came from very modest backgrounds and had to drop out of school in order to help support their families. Even though they never finished high school, they supported and valued education. Though lacking in material resources, they were generous in spirit and shared what little they had ... whether through baking doughnuts for every community function, baking bread for fundraising, or through a simple dollar donation to send a blanket to a German mother after the war.”

The value of education and community service was passed from one generation to the next. Tom graduated from Tremont High School in Pennsylvania and then earned a BS in chemistry from Wake Forest University.

Both Sally and her mother were born in the same farm home located about 3 miles from Moorefield in Hardy County. Sally graduated from Moorefield High School and went on to Marshall University.

While studying for his masters in chemistry at Marshall, Tom met and married Sally who was completing her undergraduate degree in chemistry. They moved to Lehigh University where Tom earned a PhD, and Sally did research.

Tom served as a U.S. Army captain biochemist from 1968-1970 and Sally was employed as a research chemist on base. The Lemkes then returned to Huntington and Tom was an assistant professor of chemistry at Marshall University. Sally was employed by the Pharmacology Department at the Marshall University Medical School. She was involved in research studies of coronary and pulmonary diseases.

In 1972, Tom accepted a position with Huntington Alloys (INCO Alloys, Special Metals) and worked in several capacities. He was director of International Marketing when he retired in 2003.

Sally continued her research efforts at Marshall University Medical School; her work was published in scientific and medical journals. She retired in 1998. In 2005, they moved and built a retirement home in Raleigh County.

In addition to their very full professional lives, this couple carried on the generous spirits of their mothers. Sally was active in the Cabell County Planning Commission, the League of Women Voters, the Audubon Society, the Huntington Museum of Art, the Tri-State Herb Society and the Regency Dance Club.

Tom, a life-long member of the American Chemical Society, served on various boards including the West Virginia American Lung Association; Daido Inco Alloys, a joint venture company in Japan; Valinco, a joint venture company with Valinox of France; and currently serves on the Special Metals Salaried Retirees VEBA. He has been a member of the West Virginia Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCOR).

“We may expect lifelong residents of our community to volunteer and find ways to improve the quality of life for this and coming generations,” noted Susan Landis, executive director of BAF, “but in our transient society, it is important to give back wherever life may lead us. The Lemkes have made this their practice.”

Tom has served on the BAF distributions committee and hence learned the value of discretionary funds. He is currently serving as one of the Raleigh County coordinators for Reaching the Summit Boy Scout Community Service projects.

Both Sally and Tom are members of the Piney Creek Watershed Association and the New River Gorge Community Involvement Initiative. They serve as docents at the Beckley Art Gallery and volunteer at the New River Gorge National River in the archeology section. They help maintain the gardens at our YMCA and the Bowers Hospice House.

Sally is a member of the Glade Springs Women’s Book Club, a group that decorated an amazing tree for the United Way Festival of Trees. She is also a member of Phymosia Garden Club which supports numerous civic beautification projects.

For information about starting a named permanent endowment at the Beckley Area Foundation for the charitable purpose of your choice, call 304-253-3806 or e-mail info@bafwv.org. Ask about the availability of Neighborhood Investment Program West Virginia state tax credits which can make your donation particularly attractive.