Fall 2005 Forward to a Friend

Full Circle with Johanna Smolka


Photo: Al Zagofsky

Johanna Smolka and her 2004 Subaru Outback Sedan in front of the Harry Packer Mansion in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

Johanna Smolka remembers the day during World War II when the fierce battle for the Ludendorff Bridge in Remagen began just three miles from her hometown of Oberwinter, south of Bonn, Germany. It was March 7, 1945, and the 1,066-foot-long railway and pedestrian walkway was the last standing bridge across the Rhine River.

As the fighting broke out, 10-year-old Johanna and her family quickly collected food from their grocery store and fled to a relative’s home on a mountain and, later, to a cave in the woods. Bombs landing in the Rhine River brought fish to the surface and provided many meals for the displaced family.

Three weeks later, after a string of Allied victories, Johanna’s family returned home.

A few years later, a housekeeping job for a German diplomatic couple brought Johanna to the United States. She attended high school in Philadelphia, learned to speak English and met Richard, who eventually became her husband.

After moving to their home in Penn Forest Township in 1991, Johanna and Richard became involved with the Penn-Kidder Veterans of Foreign Wars. In 1998, they helped raise money to form the Lady’s Auxiliary of the VFW, which helps ailing veterans at a local VA hospital. She still supports the program today.

Johanna uses her sewing machine to modify towels into bibs for the hospital’s veterans – soldiers who may have fought for the bridge at Remagen so many years ago while she huddled in a cave with her family. Her handcrafted gifts support other local charities as well.

Once a victim of World War II, Johanna now helps the war’s victors. She has healed herself and made life better for many others in the process. We’re honored to find her behind the wheel of a Subaru.