The mayor of Shiremanstown died suddenly of a heart attack Thursday while ministering to an inmate at Cumberland County Prison.
Dean Lebo, the co-owner of Christian radio station WWII, 720 “The Rock,” was 66.
By Friday evening, a dozen relatives had gathered at the New Cumberland home of his widow, Ann.
In between tearful breaks, sons, daughters and grandsons remembered their patriarch for the many quests to which he devoted his time, the fondness he had for small-town communities and his many quirks and mannerisms. And the man who once gave his own shoes to a needy couple was remembered for his generosity.
“He loved to drink coffee,” says Lauri Lebo, his daughter.
“He loved to tell bad jokes,” says Charlie Young, husband of daughter Lesli Young.
“I don’t ever remember him sitting down at the table to eat,” says Alex Rakoff, his oldest grandson.
And when would he have had time?
Raised 5 children
After selling advertising for various Harrisburg-area radio stations and raising five children, Lebo was suddenly thrust into the business as a co-owner.
When a friend asked him, “Do you want to start a radio station?” he said yes, Ann Lebo recalls.
When it debuted in 1987, AM 720 was playing mostly big band-era music. But some two years into it, the station just wasn’t working, family members say.
After he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, all that was left was for the power company to come out and quiet the broadcast antennae.
“The next morning, a Christian radio station offered to buy it,” Charlie Young says.
Like a sign from above, the offer changed his life, his widow says.
“It became his testimonial,” Lauri Lebo says.
Up until the day he died, Dean Lebo would spend an hour praying after awakening each morning, family members say. With the company of a small tabby cat — “Amber, his prayer cat,” Young says — he’d pray for his family, for the inmates he visited in area prisons and for children, specifically Haitians, who were going hungry.
“This morning when we work up, (Amber) was looking all around. … It’s not going to be the same now,” Young says.
Dean Lebo was heavily involved with a ministry in Haiti and had visited numerous times.
“He was so interested that $15 could feed a child for a month,” Lauri Lebo says.
As a result, his family says Dean Lebo didn’t spend a lot of money on himself.
“He was known to buy the cheapest clothes,” Lauri Lebo says. “He couldn’t figure out why anyone would shop at places other than Salvation Army.”
A Shiremanstown council member from 1993 to 1995, Lebo was elected mayor of Shiremanstown five straight times for almost eight years of service.
As a politician, he was most known for fighting to keep Shiremanstown unincorporated from Lower Allen Township. He also opposed the regionalization of a police force.
“He thought it would hurt the small-town feel. He called it a vanishing aspect of American culture,” says Jeff Lebo, Lauri’s husband, who just happened to have the same last name.
Unlike many politicians, Dean Lebo didn’t like large crowds. He was a good public speaker, but his favorite conversations were one-on-one, his family says. He would spend hours talking at Houser’s barber shop in New Cumberland and at the Shiremanstown radio station headquarters.
“It’s hard to fathom how many lives he touched,” Charlie Young says.