The community contributes to the book “Remembering Reynardale”

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, widow Kathleen Zembeke recently found a way to keep her sanity, she will admit, by painting watercolors of neighbors’ homes in Collier’s Rynerdale section.

Through social media, she shared her photos with other artists, to get their feedback.

“This guy from Philadelphia was one of the greatest of them,” Zembeki said. “I’m going to Reynerdale,” he said.

The positive images she created of her town were the impetus for Remembering Reynerdale, a 588-page book that celebrates the neighborhood’s 125th anniversary in a distinctive and engaging way.

More than 200 homes as painted by Zembeki are depicted along with contemporary photographs, property details, and, in many cases, memories of the people who lived there.

“It is one thing to believe that you have had the most wonderful years of growing up. But the joy that I felt in reading the stories in these pages, stories that reflect the same spirit, completed a journey that I consider an honor,” said Margie Fett, one of the book’s authors, of Reynerdale. “The opportunity to score a piece of history was a gift I could never repay.”

She joined Zimbicki and Doug McLaren, another co-author, at a book release event on September 24, where they shared their experiences with a sanctuary full of people at the First United Presbyterian Church of Rennerdale on Noblestown Road.

“I think you’ve all heard the expression, it takes a village to get anything done,” said McLaren, a Kentucky resident who spent his first 22 years in Reynyrdale. “Well, you guys, it’s you who helped make this book possible. I mean, we have pictures there. We have stories there. But it’s the stories that fill in between and make the cement, the foundation, for all the book we have here.”

Talk about receiving an email from Zimbicki in the summer of 2020, with the subject line simply, “Your old home.”

“Well, what’s to come is her interpretation of my house,” said McLaren, and the body told him, “I’m here alone with a cat trying to keep her sanity by painting the houses of Reynerdale.”

And no, as he once had to explain to someone, it was not inside them that they covered the walls and ceilings.

McLaren and Witt were working with Rand Gee, a writer living in Washington state, on a book about his native Collier, and he suggested that Zembeki’s art form the basis of another publication. Two years later, the efforts of the four of them paid off.

During the book’s release, the authors gave a tribute to Boy Scout Kaleb Gearhart, whose Eagle Award service project involved restoring the “Welcome to Rennerdale” sign that his great-grandfather was instrumental in publishing some 80 years ago. Zembeki’s watercolor of the sign is featured on the cover of the book.

Also, Feitt, McLaren, and Zimbicki presented a $600 check to the Rennerdale Volunteer Department, which included flyers about the book project with fish dinners served by firefighters during the pandemic.

She was congratulated at the event by Reverend Judi Flack, who at 19 years old is the longest-serving pastor in the 119-year history of the host church.

“We are so grateful to be part of this community,” she said. “I feel like we have been a kind of beacon of light for many years. And when we ring the bell every Sunday morning, I want you to know that we are praying for this community.”

Feet also expressed her gratitude to the members of the Reynyrdale community.

“Often, your contributions have felt like Christmas. Do you remember those feelings you had as a child, opening a gift that you absolutely love?” she said. “We sincerely offer this book in the hope that you will enjoy it as much as we have enjoyed our trip.”

For more information visit www.randgee.com/remembering-rennerdale.

Harry Funk is the Tribune-Review News Editor. You can contact Harry at hfunk@triblive.com.

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