Auman Funeral Home announces plans to lay Stoneman Willie to rest

Theo. C. Auman, Inc. Funeral Home announced Thursday morning plans to partner with the City of Reading 275th Anniversary Committee to honor a local legend, an icon of Reading and longtime Auman Funeral Home resident Stoneman Willie. Stoneman Willie has been housed in downtown Reading for 128 years.

“Willie” was arrested in Reading in 1895 for petty theft and incarcerated in the former Berks County Prison, located on the property of what is now City Park. He passed away in the prison on the 19th of November a few days after being arrested.

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“Willie” had given the name of James Penn when he was arrested. Some accounts state he gave the name of William Penn. Either way, prior to dying, he told his cellmate that he gave authorities a fake name and would not identify his real identity to anyone.

With no identity and no next of kin Mr. Auman, experimenting with an evolving process called embalming, decided to use the procedure to preserve Willie until his next of kin could be located to proceed with burial plans. Mr. Auman’s embalming essentially mummified Willie due to an overabundance of preservatives and as no family members of Willies ever stepped forward to claim him. His mortal remains have remained at Auman Funeral Home at 247 Penn Street, Reading from November 19, 1895 to this very day.

In observance of the 275th Anniversary Theo C. Auman, Inc Funeral Home will honor Willie by telling his story and finally laying him to rest. He will be in the official City of Reading 275th Anniversary Parade on Sunday, October 1st on Penn Street in Reading.

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Beginning Monday, October 2nd and through Friday, October 6th, the public is invited to see Willie in person one last time at the funeral home. One afternoon and evening viewing time each day, will be announced later.

During that viewing period, Willie will be dressed in period clothing befitting what a gentleman would have been dressed in for a viewing and funeral in 1895. Period clothing will be provided by John Thomas, through the local Gene London Collection.

On Saturday, October 7 Willie will be taken by procession from Theo. C. Auman, Funeral Home, Penn Street, to Auman’s, Inc. Funeral Home at Forest Hills Memorial Park, Exeter Township where he will be laid to rest.

Plans on where Willie will be laid to rest will be finalized with a specific location either at the funeral home itself or at a place of prominence in Forest Hills Memorial Park in honor of the respect and reverence Willie should finally be awarded as he is finally laid to rest.

The public is invited to all of the events. More details on his celebration week and details of his incredibly interesting story will be shared leading up to the 275th Anniversary parade.

To learn more about Stoneman Willie visit Berks Nostalgia.

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