Homeland resident Earl Soliday: A life of service and world travels


Earl Soliday FINAL2

Earl Soliday kicks a foot in lively fashion.

“I couldn’t even move my leg before, but look at that now,” he said. “I feel good. They’re treating me well in the rehab area.”

Earl slipped while cleaning snow off a car in December, breaking his femur. After surgery, he entered a local rehab facility but wasn’t getting better. His daughter, who works in health care, researched area facilities and learned about Homeland’s exceptional rehabilitation therapies, provided in partnership with Genesis Rehab Services.

Since coming to Homeland, Earl has made excellent progress and said he enjoys the people providing his care and the relaxed conversation during visits from his wife, Mary Ellen.

The Lower Paxton Township resident’s 20-year career with the U.S. Air Force put him in the middle of history, including the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and stoked his world travels, from Guam to Dover, Delaware, and from Vietnam to Rimini, Italy.

Originally from Lebanon, Earl’s father worked in a knitting mill until it closed, and then he became a chocolate maker for the Hershey Company, removing the candy from the huge stills that were the heart of the factory.

“They’d had him go in there with a mask, chop [the chocolate] and bring it all out,’’ said Earl, the eldest of five siblings. “Then they melted it and put it into the chocolate maker.”

Earl delivered milk for Hershey Creamery as a teen before enlisting in the Air Force, servicing B-47s and C-47s at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. He served four years and reenlisted only a few months after getting out.

Shortly after reenlisting, he met Mary Ellen when he and some friends leaving to serve in the Army invited him to go roller skating.

“Of course, I wore a pillow on my back,” Earl jokes. “I didn’t know how to roller skate. I was lucky I didn’t get any broken bones.”

One day, Earl asked Mary Ellen if she would marry him if he were assigned overseas. Thinking he would be around a while, she jokingly said yes.

“He no sooner got back to his base when he called me and said, ‘Well, I got orders. I’m going overseas,’” she said.

They married in 1959 and soon after, Mary Ellen followed Earl to his assignment in Tripoli, Libya, where they lived for two years. The next few years were spent in Dover, Delaware, Washington, DC, and California.

While in Washington, Earl served at Andrews Air Force Base and was on duty the day President Kennedy’s body was flown in from Texas. He was part of the honor guard escorting the late president.

Sometimes, Earl’s duties took him away from his family. When he spent a year in Vietnam, Mary Ellen put 365 pennies in a jar, and their daughter would take one out every night to count down the time until her daddy’s return.

After retiring from the Air Force, Earl worked at Mechanicsburg Naval Base for eight years. In his last job before retiring, he served as a crier for a Dauphin County judge.

Today, the Solidays have three granddaughters and two great-granddaughters. Their home in Lower Paxton Township is decorated with beautiful furniture they bought in Italy, and China that Earl bought in Guam for his mother.

Recently, Homeland Chaplain Dann Caldwell saw Earl’s last name and asked if he was related to Doug Soliday. The two were football teammates at Central Dauphin High School. Earl also discovered his roommate and a neighbor across the hall have relatives who graduated with the Solidays’ son.

“I couldn’t ask for better people here,” Earl said. “They’re nice. They are so friendly.”