Alma Marie Yerger Schwalm passed from this life on Dec. 24, 2023, in the presence of her family in her home.
Alma was born on April 24, 1933, on a farm in Berks County, delivered by her father due to a late spring snowstorm that prevented the doctor from arriving at the farm. She was the daughter of the late Arthur Sr. and Naomi Kalbach Yerger. She was the wife of Earl M. Schwalm, who passed away Sept. 26, 1996.
Alma worked all her life in the garment business, working at the former Mills and Mills, The Diane, and spent 30+ years at Susan Garments as a pressor, trimmer, inspector, and relief floor lady until it closed when she was 61. Alma was always a hard and diligent worker. After leaving the garment world, she would “help out” at Schwalm’s Restaurant as a cashier and hostess until she was 80. She volunteered to work banquets and learned to make candy with the “Willing Workers” at Zoars Lutheran Church in Mt. Zion.
She was well-known as the “candy lady and cookie lady” during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Even after experiencing her first stroke in 2018, she went back to making candy and cookies. Not just any candy, but the best opera fudge this side of the Mississippi. She was a perfectionist when it came to her candy making; her fudge was always smooth and creamy, and she would get upset if it had even one small grainy, sugary bite in it. She would coat it perfectly, making sure the hat pinhole she used to dip and coat the candy was covered with a perfect dab of chocolate. Her candy was loved by the nurses and doctors her daughter worked with throughout her career, not only locally but in Philadelphia, where the doctors said they wanted to set her up in her own candy factory. The ER nurses in Virginia took a picture of themselves holding a sign that read, “We will work for candy.” She shared her candy and cookies with many. She made the best sand tarts and chocolate chip cookies, which people loved, but they always came back to talking about the opera fudge.
She and Earl had many adventures through their marriage, just shy of 45 years. They were married on Dec. 13, 1952. Whatever phase of toys Earl had, she went along willingly from Harley motorcycles in the 1950s to a small motor boat for fishing trips in the ’60s, flying with the Distelfink Aeroclub in Fredericksburg in the ’70s, and back to the motorcycles in the ’80s and ’90s. She was a fiercely independent woman and loved being on the go, driving everywhere she could until her first stroke left her unable to do so. Even after her recent stroke, she thought she should be able to drive, and it was always “her” fault she would tell people of her nurse daughter, Kathy.
She enjoyed country music and was known to yodel along with the tunes and also enjoyed polka music. She would go shopping just to “snoop” and come home with her prized finds. She loved working outside in the yard, even doing her own mowing and flower bed gardening up until three years ago. In her gardens and around the house were beautiful statutes and lawn ornaments she would paint. Neighbors, friends, and family members all have pieces in their yards and homes that she painted meticulously. Speaking of painting, two years ago, while her daughter was away, she decided to paint her powder room purple, her favorite color. Her house is full of zebras that she has collected over the past 30 years. She bowled for many years at the Fredericksburg bowling alley, then the Eagles in Lebanon. After giving up bowling, she became a bingo player, her favorite spot being Glen Lebanon Fire Company. She delighted in her trips to Atlantic City casinos in the old days to her favorite local spot, Hollywood Casino in Grantville – didn’t have to ask her twice if she wanted to go. She loved to go out and eat at local restaurants, and the last several years revived her love of the Coney Dogs at The Coney Island in Pottsville. She went out with her sisters, Ella and Vivian, every Friday and Saturday for dinner. They never knew where they would end up eating dinner. Her favorite meal at home was three peanut butter sandwich cookies and a cup of coffee, three times a day.
She is survived by her daughter, Kathy Schwalm, and daughter-in-law, Mary Lou Telego, and grand puppy, Pepper, who adored her grandma. She also leaves behind her beloved cats, Mama Boots and Baby Boots. She was one of 14 children. She is survived by her sisters, Wanda Wenrich, of Fredericksburg, Evelyn Morgan, of Dover, PA, Vivian Bohr, of Lebanon, and Ella Donmoyer, of Jonestown. She is survived by her brothers, Arthur Jr., of Tampa, FL, Charles, of Pine Grove, PA, and George, of Newville. She is also survived by her longtime childhood friend and sister-in-law, Anna Mae Bachman, of Lebanon. She is survived by many nieces and nephews, great-nieces and -nephews, and great-great-nieces and -nephews. She was preceded in death by her sisters, Mabel, Iva, Clara Lymaster, and Elizabeth Minnich, and brothers, James and Robert.
The family would like to express their deepest gratitude for the care she received from her team at Hospice for All Seasons. Every member of her team gave their best, and she was especially fond of her daily caregiver, Joyce, who cared for her with the most tender, loving, gentle care possible and made her smile every day. Thanks to Kyle for his weekly visits and assistance in making her transition comfortable. Thanks to Michelle, who treated and cared for patient and family members, and to Chaplain Rick for his visits and prayers. Thanks to the family and friends who have supported her along her journey these last five years. A special thank you to Louise and Kimberly for being present and assisting in her care during her final days.
At her request, there will be no public viewing or funeral. A graveside service for those closest to her will be held at the convenience of the family.
Arrangements will be provided by Kreamer Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, as an expression of sympathy, memorial contributions may be sent to Hospice for all Seasons Foundation, 280 S. Hill Dr., Grantville, PA 17028.