The Force is strong in Lebanon County, and not just because of the many “Star Wars” fans in the area.
George Lucas, the famous filmmaker and creator of the “Star Wars” franchise, has a definite connection to Lebanon County, and Pat Rhen and other members of the Lebanon County Historical Society have worked diligently to find out exactly what that connection is.
Thanks to some research conducted by Henry Homan in 2002, Rhen already knew that Lucas’s great-grandfather was J.S. Bomberger, a prominent figure in Palmyra during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Rhen’s goal was to trace the Bomberger lineage to California to tie up the direct connection to Lucas.
Rhen said that Lucas’s mother was Dorothy Bomberger before she married George Lucas Sr. in 1933 in Modesto, California. Rhen found a wedding announcement in the online archive of the “Modesto News-Herald” stating that Bomberger’s father was Paul S. Bomberger, of Modesto, California.
“I looked in Russell Holmes Fletcher’s ‘Who’s Who in California’ for 1942 and 1943 and found that Paul Spayd Bomberger of Modesto California was listed as the son of John S. and Alice Bomberger of Palmyra, Pennsylvania,” Rhen said.
Rhen discovered an obituary for J.S. Bomberger in the September 7, 1928 edition of the “Lebanon Daily News” that states that he was married to Alice Spayd, and was survived by seven sons and two daughters. Although the print is somewhat difficult to read, Paul S., of Modesto, California is listed as one of the surviving children.
According to the obituary, J.S. Bomberger was born in 1849, and after helping his father with the family farm he went on to buy the Martin Early farm “north of the depot at Palmyra.” He served as a member of the school board for Londonderry Township, was a county commissioner for one term and director of the Palmyra Bank until he had to retire due to health problems.
The obituary describes Bomberger as quite the traveler, citing frequent trips he made to the mid-west and California with his wife.
An attempt to reach Lucas for a comment resulted in a less than informative response from Skywalker Ranch Publicity.
“Thank you for reaching out with regard to your story,” they said. “While we certainly appreciate your positive efforts to research the article, unfortunately we try not to comment on Mr. Lucas’ personal or family life out of respect for his privacy, at this time.”
However, Lee Moyer, owner of Marty’s Music Store in Annville, can personally confirm the accuracy of Rhen’s findings.
“Our great grandfather was John S. Bomberger,” Moyer confirmed. “My grandmother and Lucas’s grandfather were brother and sister. His grandfather was Paul Bomberger, and my grandmother was Mary Bomberger. Mary stayed here, and three of her brothers moved to California and Paul was one of them.”
According to Moyer, he once met Paul in California, but he has never met George Lucas.
“I met Paul out in Modesto in 1964, and I didn’t even know George existed back then because this was long before ‘Star Wars,’” Moyer said. “When it came out back in 1977 we said, ‘That’s Cousin George.’”
Moyer said he is sure that many people claim to be relatives of Lucas, but he actually is connected to him through the Bomberger family of Palmyra.
“It is well documented,” Moyer said, “but it’s not like we were ever looking for a connection. I had all the information about how we are related for a long time as part of our family tree.”
Moyer said he is not aware of Lucas ever coming to Lebanon to visit his distant relatives, but he did bring up a second connection Lucas has with Lebanon County.
“Really, his closest connection here is Randal Kleiser, the director of ‘Grease,’ who grew up in Lebanon before he and his family moved to Philadelphia,” Moyer said. “Kleiser was a roommate of George’s when they were in film school together.”
Moyer was also able to offer some further information on John S. Bomberger.
“As well as being a county commissioner and the founder of the bank in Palmyra, he was also a cattle trader,” Moyer said. According to Moyer, that is why the Bomberger house was located on North Railroad Street right next to the railroad.
“That farm is now broken up, and I think there is a community park now that was a part of it,” Moyer said. “He sold it off eventually.”
Moyer said that to his knowledge none of Bomberger’s sons received any part of the property since they were already fairly wealthy in Modesto.
“They were active in farming, seed and that sort of thing and had become successful on their own,” Moyer said.
While George Lucas’s connection to Lebanon County is one that goes back several generations, it is still one that should hold some value to local “Star Wars” fans. As the tag line in one of the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” trailers states, “Every generation has a story.”