After a lifetime serving people in Franklin County, Sam Worley is staying busy at 100

Amber South
Chambersburg Public Opinion

Sam Worley has been a busy guy his whole life. That isn't changing even as he celebrates turning 100 on June 13. 

A World War II veteran who became well known locally through his work as a politician and banker, Worley wakes around 6:30 every morning and plays up to five games of pool at a Chambersburg social club before going out to lunch, usually with his son.

He still drives. He does speaking engagements, telling young people about his days as an intelligence officer in the Army Air Corps. He even still works, as a consultant for a $7 billion investment fund for local governments.

"If I sit around, I'm gone," Worley said. 

If you've been around Chambersburg for a while, you've probably heard of Worley.  In addition to his 34 years at the former Valley Bank and Trust Company on Chambersburg's Memorial Square, he served eight years as chairman of the Franklin County Board of Commissioners, more than 20 years as a Fourth Ward representative on Chambersburg Borough Council, a stint as mayor and has been involved over the years with United Way of Franklin County, Chambersburg Memorial YMCA, Chambersburg Kiwanis Club (of which he's been a member for 72 years), the former Scotland School for Veterans Children, American Legion Post 46 and other groups and programs. As an article in the former Fort Loudon News announcing Worley's candidacy for county commissioner states, "the list goes on and on." 

"I have done my best to serve the community in some small way," he told the Public Opinion six days before becoming a centenarian.

Sam Worley, pictured in front of Central Presbyterian Church in Chambersburg on June 7, 2021. He has been a member at the church since 1954.

Community service and networking were on Worley's mind when he and his wife, June, moved to Chambersburg in 1946. They lived in a $39.17-a-month rental above the old Huber's hardware store at 30 S. Main St. 

A member of a men's auxiliary called the Junior Chamber of Commerce and well on his way up the ladder in the banking world, Worley's first foray into politics came when Enos H. Horst, a Chambersburg native who was a state representative at the time, asked him to serve as judge of elections in the Fourth Ward. 

Then, in 1957, Worley was appointed to one of the ward's seats on borough council after the previous holder recommended him, as was the tradition at that time. He went on to become council president. In January 1988, he started his first of two terms as a Franklin County commissioner. 

"I could not turn down politics."

During Worley's time on borough council, major projects included a new reservoir, a sewage treatment plant and downtown revitalization. He was passionate about developing the old Chambersburg airport, but that effort didn't take off as he had hoped. 

He was a commissioner when the county implemented its first 911 emergency communications system in the fall of 1989; in fact, he said it was part of his campaign platform. He also had a hand in the expansion of the now-former county prison on Franklin Farm Lane and led the effort to ban smoking in county buildings. 

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For his birthday one year, Worley's daughter gave him a copy of Tom Brokaw's book, "The Greatest Generation," which shares the stories of people around the country who came of age during the Great Depression and WWII. 

The gift came with a message: "Here you are, Dad!"

Sam Worley, as he looked around the time he retired from Valley Bank and Trust in Chambersburg in 1987.

Born June 13, 1921, Worley grew up in a 14-room stone house on the main intersection in Fannettsburg. His pre-war life was bliss, despite the Great Depression. The family lacked nothing but money. 

"I came from a very happy home. My mother always saw that I got off to Sunday school. We practiced our - we were never selfish, we always had food for anybody who came around to the home." 

Some of his happiest childhood memories happened at the festivals many of the local towns held on Saturday nights. He'd arrive with a nickel, enough to buy an ice cream cone. In his hometown, the Path Valley Picnic was a more extravagant affair, so much so that his parents would give him a whole quarter which he used to buy a box of popcorn, a ride on the carousel, a "bottle of pop," and some ice cream. Sometimes, he would put his money toward a milk bottle game to win a stuffed animal. 

Worley met June Hammond while both were students at Fannett Township High School. They went on to be married for 61 years before her death in 2008, but the war put their story on hold for a time. 

Worley was drafted on Sept. 19, 1942, while a college student. 

"I could have been exempted but I chose to go because my buddies were all going." 

Bob Thomas, a former Franklin County commissioner, took this photo of Sam Worley, right, and fellow World War II veteran Harold Angle, at the Memorial Day ceremony in Chambersburg on May 31, 2021.

For a 21-year-old from the country, being mixed in with big-city men of different cultures and nationalities was quite a learning experience in itself. By August 1943, he was stationed in England as part of a small group running the intelligence unit for the 8th Air Force's First Bomb Division. Their job was to decode incoming orders for bombers and their fighter escorts, who would then use that information to pinpoint targets during bombing runs in Europe. 

Many of the pilots briefed by Worley's group never made it back, he has recalled in past interviews. 

Worley was discharged on Oct. 1, 1945.  Although he enjoys sharing his story with younger generations -- the awestruck faces he often sees from the podium demonstrate why it's important -- he is not keen on talking himself up. The ground forces are the real heroes, he says. 

"(I am most proud) that I was able to serve my country. I would do it again. And raising my family." 

One may think that going to war would be the biggest challenge of a person's life, but for Worley, the most difficult chapter came when he was attending Northwestern University's three-year graduate program in banking.

"That was very difficult, to work and have a family with two children, and the logistics between (Chambersburg) and Evanston, Illinois was no small trip."

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Worley had been in the banking industry for a quarter of a century at this point, most of it at Valley Bank. He achieved his first job at the Path Valley National Bank in Dry Run shortly after returning from the war. 

"Someone asked me if I was interested in an opening at the bank," he said in a profile published in the Public Opinion in 1984. "It provided me with an opportunity to serve the community, to meet people and to help them with their financial needs. So I said yes."

In another life, he might have become an English teacher, or even a chemical engineer or a forensic scientist. The war took him away from his studies at the Shippensburg State Teachers College, and a stint studying chemistry at another school ended as he realized it simply wasn't his forte. 

"I don't look back. You can't turn pages back to yesterday," he said in the profile. 

A fact sheet about Sam Worley and his many accomplishments from a Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs pamphlet.

'One day at a time' 

Worley has less official business to tend to these days, but his passions remain unchanged. 

He's been keeping a humongous coin collection for 70 years. There are so many coins, he can't venture a guess of how many he has. 

He still loves antique cars. He has a 1931 sport convertible that he recently had out on the road with his son. He plans to get it out again when his grandkids visit next. 

He loves to socialize. On top of his daily pool games at the Chambersburg Club, his membership at the Masonic Lodge is a big part of his life.

"That has afforded me an opportunity to meet and greet very, very nice people from all walks of life. It is my social life." 

Worley has concerns about where the world is going. Current times are dangerous, he said. But at this point in his longer-than-average life, he is focused on the things and people he loves and taking things as they come. He still plays politics, but from the sidelines. Watching technology progress has been "mindblowing," and he may get a smartphone soon, but his flip phone and home desktop computer and more than enough for him. 

"I say my time is one day at a time, and I'm very appreciative of that. But I realized that my time, the best of my life is behind me. Although, I enjoy every day."

Amber South can be reached at asouth@publicopinionnews.com.