Thorpe is the woman behind the recreational resources that give our town its charm, things like the Schuylkill Canal, the canoe launches, our newspaper and quaint downtown area.

A Mont Clare native, Thorpe was born in the house she currently resides in, a house that also bore witness to the birth of her mother and her grandmother. Although she was born in the area and lives here now, she spent the lapse of time in between out of state.

As a young adult and Smith graduate, she fought against the stereotypical professions assumed upon women in the 1940s.

"I did not want to be a secretary," she stated emphatically.

Instead of becoming a secretary, nurse, or school teacher, Thorpe earned her pilot's license and studied Russian for a year with hopes of working in Moscow.

When her Russian dreams fell through, Thorpe landed a job as a researcher for the popular Time magazine in New York. This position opened the door for her career in print media. Her name has decorated the pages of other esteemed publications such as Redbook and Life magazines.

After navigating through the journalism field in New York, the house so rich in Thorpe family history called her home once again. She returned to Mont Clare to care for her elderly parents and re-dedicated herself to the Phoenixville area.

Thorpe approached the town with an indisputable zeal. She was one of the ten local citizens that formed a committee we now know as the Schuylkill Canal Association.

Twenty-two years later, she laughs about her continuing involvement in the SCA.

"I don't remember how many times I was president," she said as she rolled her eyes. "I just can't get out."

One of Thorpe's biggest achievements in the SCA was receiving the first round of Heritage Corridor grants for the first time in Montgomery County for the construction of canoe launches along the Schuylkill River.

"At the meeting, I said that we would like a canoe launch on the river and everyone just agreed," she said.

Currently, she maintains a dual role of treasurer and secretary.

Her work with the SCA did not cause Thorpe to abandon her journalism career. She became the publisher of a local newspaper, The Daily Republican, that had been driven into the ground by its previous publisher.

She changed the name of the newspaper to The Evening Phoenix and took a side in one of the biggest debates in Phoenixville at the time, the semi-mall project.

"I wrote a lot of editorials. I loved doing it. I had an opinion on everything," she said.

The semi-mall project aimed to improve the downtown appearance of Phoenixville after the steel mill closing brought several local businesses down with it. She used the newspaper to rally for better sidewalks, more trees, and bigger signage and won. The downtown area slowly began to thrive again.

Without Neal Thorpe's return to Mont Clare, Phoenixville wouldn't be the same town it is today.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Phoenix Profile will return to the Lifestyles pages next week.

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