Emmet W. Bongar

CORTLAND – Emmet Wald Bongar passed away at age 94, on Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, at Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren after a brief illness.

Emmet was born on Nov. 26, 1919, in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of Etta Wald Bongar and Irving Bongar.

He grew up in Danbury, Conn., where he received his Bachelor of Arts from Danbury Normal School (now Western Connecticut State University).

Emmet enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He served as a chief petty officer as an instructor in the then-new technology of RADAR.

Following the war, he attended Columbia University Teachers College on the G.I. Bill, where he received his master’s degree. While at Columbia, Emmet met his wife of 55 years, the former Audrey Miller of Lock Haven, Pa. Audrey passed away in 2005. The two shared a love for the theater and after graduating, they worked in professional theater for several years, including the Youngstown Playhouse.

Starting a family, Emmet went to work as a government contractor. He worked for Westinghouse Electric on the Nautilus, the first nuclear submarine, and on the first full-scale nuclear power plant devoted to peacetime use in Shippingport, Pa. He then went to work at the GE Jet Propulsion Labs in Cincinnati, where he worked on the SST (Super Sonic Transport).

When Congress defunded the SST, Emmet made another career change and became a professor of theater at Thiel College in Greenville, Pa. At Thiel, he staged dozens of productions, including “Waiting for Godot,” “Twelfth Night,” “Peer Gynt” and a production of “Elizabeth the Queen” with Audrey Miller Bongar playing the lead role. In addition, Emmet wrote “Practical Stage Lighting,” which is part of the Theater Student series published by Richards Rosen Press in New York.

During summers, Emmet and Audrey managed the William Baker Hotel at the Chautauqua Institute in New York.

In a recent interview about theater at Thiel College, Emmet said, “I retired four times.”

After retiring from Thiel, he went to work for Marion Power Shovel in Marion on the world’s largest earth-moving equipment. He and Audrey moved to Audrey’s hometown of Lock Haven, Pa., in 1976, where they bought a local printing business in Williamsport, Pa. Not anticipating the PC revolution, this business closed.

Emmet then returned to industry where he worked for Burns and Roe, an industrial engineering firm, in Oradell, N.J. After this next retirement, Emmet was appointed to the Clinton County Flood Commission, where he used his expertise as a government contractor in working with the Army Corps of Engineers on a dike levee system to protect Lock Haven from regular flooding of the Susquehanna River. He was appointed as director for the last year of this three-year project.

Emmet was a member of the Great Island Presbyterian Church in Lock Haven and for many years was active as a deacon and a ruling and teaching elder. Elected to the Presbytery and Synod, he attended the general assembly and had a liberal voice in church matters.

Some favorite sayings of Emmet’s were, “A church doesn’t make you a holy person …” and “I don’t eat to live. I live to eat.”

After Audrey’s death, Emmet moved to Niles to be near his daughter, Mary. He traveled widely throughout the U.S. up until recently.

Emmet is survived by his two children, a daughter, Mary (Rick) Landries of Cortland, and his son, Michael (Tina Volz) of Peekskill, N.Y.; and three grandchildren, Bradley, Derek and Sara. Following in their father’s footsteps, Michael is a theatrical producer, and Mary Landries, who retired several years ago as engineering manager at Delphi Packard Electric, works at Hiram College.

A memorial service will be held 10:30 a.m. Sept. 12, 2014, at the Dunnstown Cemetery in Clinton County, Pa. Officiating will be Pastor Benjamin Lins of the Great Island Presbyterian Church, Lock Haven.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Nature Conservancy, Attention Treasury, 4245 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 100, Arlington, Va., www.nature.org/membership-giving/more-ways-to-give/memorial-giving.xml, or The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, by calling 202-416-8058.

Arrangements are under the direction of the Yost-Gedon Funeral Home & Cremation Services LLC, 121 W. Main St., Lock Haven, PA 17745. Online thoughts and memories can be made at www.yost-gedonfuneralhome.com.

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