William Diehl Obituary (1925 – 2021) – Allentown, PA

William Edward Diehl died peacefully on May 30, 2021 in Luther Crest in Allentown. He was born on February 5, 1925 to Hilda (Yellis) Diehl and Henry Diehl. He was married to his beloved wife Judith Ruhe Diehl for 68 years, with whom he shared a deep commitment to family, faith and service to others.

As a product of Allentown Public Schools, it served during World War II and then enrolled at Lehigh University, where it graduated with a summa cum laude degree in civil engineering. He came to Bethlehem Steel where he worked as a civil engineer, salesman and manager for 32 years. He retired in 1981 after having been the company’s sales director for 11 years. But his career was hardly over. He founded the Riverbend Resource Center, ran business consulting services for for-profit and nonprofit organizations, and served on the board of directors and interim president of Barker Steel in Boston.

More important to him than his professional career, however, was his family, his deep Christian faith, and his unwavering desire to live his faith in everything he did. Bill often attributed his service during World War II to shaping these priorities, after serving as a combat surgeon with a tank battalion in the European Theater and later witnessing the indescribable brutality of human existence as he helped liberate concentration camps. These experiences, though seldom discussed, led to a thorough investigation of what to do with his life. This vocation manifested itself in proclaiming the crucial role of the laity in the life of society and advocating civil rights, social justice and the rights and dignity of all people.

For over 30 years, Bill was a leader in the Lutheran lay movement, organizing numerous study groups, conferences, and retreats. In addition to many of the articles he wrote, his books included Christianity and Real Life; Thank god it’s monday! and in search of allegiance (published by Fortress Press); and It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over, co-author with Mrs. Judith (Augsburg Books).

He was a lay member of the National Council of Churches of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and a member of the Commission for a New Lutheran Church. He was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsivity. He was director of the National Institute for Lay Education and President of the Lutheran Academy for nine years.

As a member of the Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit in Emmaus, he was a board member / founder of the Center for Faith and Life and chairman of the committee for the Ministry of Daily Life. Bill was also a member of the Lehigh County Church Conference Justice and Advocacy Committee.

Bill and Judith generously gave time and resources to efforts that exemplified gospel guidelines to care for others who are less well off. They helped support refugee families. At various times Bill served on or chaired many boards in the Lehigh Valley, including the United Way; Interfaith Coalition to Combat Poverty; and the Interfaith Coalition for Ethics.

Bill and Judith received the 1993 Jack P. Houlihan Community Volunteer Award from the United Way of the Greater Lehigh. In recognition of his life’s work, he was awarded several honorary doctorates, including an honorary doctorate from Wartburg College.

Bill was also a devoted husband who adored Judith and wrote poetry on her birthdays and every Christmas. His children are grateful for his example of high moral and ethical standards and his pious and socially active life. His grandchildren fondly remember him, including the bridge and shuffleboard in the family’s summer home in Poconos and the elaborate train set (a Pennsylvania Dutch plaster) that he put up every Christmas.

Bill had died of his wife Judith; his parents; and his beloved grandson, Brendan Rackley; and granddaughter Rebecca Geballe. Survivors include: his children – Shelley Geballe (Gordon) of Branford, Connecticut; William A. Diehl (Jeanne Birdsall) of Northampton, MA; Georgia Rackley of Enola, PA; and Jennifer Welborn (Carlos Gradil) of Amherst, MA. He is also survived by nine grandchildren – Joshua (Allison), Benjamin (Rachel), and Daniel (Linda) Geballe; David (Allison) and Amy (Tim Carlson) Diehl; Nicholas (Laura) Rackley; and Kelsey and Jesse Welborn; and 13 great-grandchildren – William, Kaylee, Shai, Avi, Micha, Esra, Mealea, Oscar, Edward, Quinn, Elliott and Henry. His entire family is deeply grateful for his ninety-six years of love and devotion, and for being such an inspiring example of a spiritual, caring, and impactful life.

Due to the ongoing COVID restrictions, his children will gather for a private church service and later hold a memorial service for Bill’s life from family and friends.

Arrangements by JS Burkholder Funeral Home, Inc., Allentown. Expressions of condolences at: www.jsburkholder.com

Instead of flowers, please consider contributions to the William E. and Judith Ruhe Diehl Scholarship Fund at Muhlenberg College [2400 Chew Street, Allentown, PA 18014-5586]

Posted in Morning Call on May 31, 2021.

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