Wilkes University

Agnes Flood Memories and Slideshow

(To view a photo slideshow of the Agnes Flood,CLICK HERE)

Alumni add their memories on the 40-year anniversary of the Agnes Flood

Linda Sue Roeth Curcio '74

I had been living in Barre Hall at the end of my sophmore year. For some reason, I ended up bringing all my stuff home that May, rather than leaving it in storage. So I was very lucky that I didn't lose anything. I remember going up in September to help with the clean-up. We were told to have work boots. (So it surprised me to see people cleaning up from this last flood in September!) Quite a few of my friends ended up living in the FEMA trailers. Hard to believe that was almost 40 years ago…

Mindy Miller Lisman ’74

I remember Tropical Storm Agnes. The storm hit at the end of June, and I had just finished my second year at Wilkes. I stuck with Wilkes even though many transferred. Most of the clean-up was done during July and August to make the campus ready for the fall. When we came back in the fall there were mud and water lines on all of the buildings on River Street.

Rich Mendelsohn ’73

I worked for the Red Cross during the flood of 72. My primary memory is handing out coffee on the banks of the Susquehanna. A boat docked and Dr. Mike got out of the boat and we talked. He told me that most of the campus was under water. I was due to graduate in spring of ’73 and did not believe we could graduate. Well a diverse group of us got together in Operation Snapback and the campus came back. We proved out that in unity in diversity great things can happen.

KayMarie Platt ’73

I was at Wilkes before and after the 1972 flood – and during the flood, I was in Plymouth with my then fiancé and his family. Agnes was one of the most significant events in my life and had a major effect on my attitudes and values. Some of the things I’ll never forget:

  • The intense rain the week before the flood
  • The phone call I got from my fiancé – [a Wilkes grad who lived in Iona Place] to evacuate at 2 a.m. I was staying in McClintock Hall attending summer school between my junior and senior year
  • Being on the main street in Plymouth the morning of June 23rd and seeing water coming up through the manholes and 6 hours later, the area where we were standing was under more than 10 feet of water.
  • My parents [in South Jersey] finally learning that I was safe
  • Getting back across the river and seeing/smelling ‘flood mud’ – a smell that still produces a reaction 39 years later….and the millions of earthworms!
  • Helping my fiancé and his parents clear out/clean their house: It was close to the river and was almost totally submerged – and some of the odd things we found that flood water will do.
  • The intense heat after the flood – and the widespread devastation beyond the campus.
  • Wilkes reopening within three weeks and going back to class – [but no dorms – I stayed in Plymouth]
  • Riding my bike every day to and from Wilkes, past Old River Road Bakery and learning to hold my breath for the 2 minutes it took to pass the mountain of rotting eggs, flour and shortening that had been pushed out into the street.
  • The music department instruments being saved by department head William Gasbarro [he managed to save every piano except the 9 foot concert grand that didn’t fit in the elevator and, from what we students in the music department learned, saved the department at the cost of his own home.]
  • Moving back to my dorm that fall and the changes on campus

I wouldn’t want to go through anything like that again but experience was a valuable one.

Ron Rittenmeyer ’72, fresh out of Wilkes with his degree in commerce and finance, was in the right place at the right time. Then living in Kingston, he was hired to work in the Agnes recovery operations for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and eventually became finance chief for the state of Pennsylvania.

He himself lost all of his possessions from the basement of his parents’ home.

“But we were all safe; we were OK,” the Plano, Tex. resident said. “So we focused on how to recover.”

Never dimmed from his memory was the will of the people to survive, he said.

Marv Stein ’70, City, Fla.
“In the summer of ’72 I was on break from graduate studies at Bowling Green State University when the flood occurred. Three weeks after the waters subsided the county was hiring for cleanup jobs. I took one of those jobs . . . I have many memories of the cleanup, not the least of which was the stench. I remember eating lunches of beans, spaghetti, and hot dogs supplied by the Salvation Army.”

Lynn Levey Weiss ’72
Hurricane Agnes was the beginning of a gorgeous 38 years of marriage for me and a day I will always remember. On June 25, 1972, Jim Weiss and I were married after being evacuated to high ground to an uncle and aunt's house in Scranton for a backyard wedding filled with neighbors and some (of our) original guests. After 17 days of rain, it seemed inconceivable that the rain would persist, so we were optimistic that our 350-guest wedding at the Woodlands would not be canceled. Slowly the bad news began to "flow" in as the photographer's equipment was flooded, the food couldn't cross the bridges, the bridges were washed out and many guests found it impossible to travel. Our guest from England, Andy Bell, arrived a few days in advance and was immediately put to work moving furniture for Jim's grandfather, Aaron Weiss, to the second floor of his Kingston home. No sleep for the jet lagged guest!

My wedding dress, my mother-in-law Zelda's wedding gown, luckily was not yet at the cleaners so a friend hand pressed it so that I could wear it. Jim's clothes were flooded in his Kingston home so he wore borrowed clothes. The wedding allowed everyone to have a moment where they could forget the troubled moment and just enjoy the sun coming out at the moment we both said "I do!"

Both of my girls were married in Kingston, Pa., and despite the rain, the sun also came out each time they said, " I do.” The recent flood didn't spare my parents original home on Philadelphia Avenue in West Pittston. During 1972, my parents, Elaine (Wilkes graduate) and Ned Levey housed at least 17 people in their small house since they were fortunate enough to be spared flooding but only three houses from the rising water. This time the water level was way above our former house. Jim and I always thought that rain was a sign of good luck since it gave us 38 magnificent years together. My thoughts are with those who have been affected by the recent flooding.

Have Your Own Memory of Agnes To Share?

If these reminiscences of Tropical Storm Agnes and the flood have inspired you to share your memories, please email us at wilkesmagazine@wilkes.edu and put Agnes in the subject line. We’ll add your story here.

Agnes Flood Photo Slideshow

View a slideshow of photos from the flood below:

Click here to return to the Spring/Summer 2012 Edition of Wilkes Magazine