Carl F. Tinnerholm ’50

Alumnus comes of age at Perkiomen and helps shape its future.

80 years later, it’s easy to think wistfully of the 1940s. Emerging from the Great Depression into a second World War, children came of age during a difficult time. Their parents made equally difficult decisions in the midst of international strife and limited resources at home. A black and white reel of romantic images might play through one’s mind of women in patterned and tailored shirtwaist dress tops and men in smart victory suits. Wearing their hats and gloves, envision children in long dress coats and short haircuts walking down Main Streets or in groups on their way to school. Of course, many individuals and their stories encompass the nuances of an era. Picture the story of one child, the late Carl F. Tinnerholm ’50, as a 12-year-old boy boarding a train on Long Island, NY and making his way to Pennsburg, PA to begin his life at Perkiomen.

The only boy of four children, his parents, Carl G. and Leona Tinnerholm, owned the Roslyn Diner on Long Island, a true family business. Looking ahead, they made the decision to send young Carl to a private preparatory school in lieu of college. In present day, Carl’s daughter Karen can imagine her father stepping onto a train platform into his new life. It was prior to the United States’ involvement in WWII and Carl was but a boy. Eventually, there would be tales of a plucky, slightly mischievous young man earning demerits from his time drinking beer and playing cards on the upper floors of Kriebel Hall. But he began his journey as any 12-year-old boy might: a bit unsure and slowly finding guidance and assurance in a new place so far from home.

Carl’s Perkiomen senior yearbook page tells a story of an engaged and respected community member. He was the President of Student Council, an avid athlete, and head waiter in the dining hall – for many years except for the few years that he left to serve in the Navy. First arriving at Perkiomen as a boy, he would leave and eventually return to Pennsburg for his senior year as a man: older, seasoned, and with four years in the U.S. Navy under his cap. Carl’s childhood friends were made to stay in school until they graduated, but with the help of his father, a Navy veteran himself, he enlisted by lying about his age, and soon was saying farewell as he traveled overseas to relieve the troops returning home after the conclusion of WWII.

We may never know the details of the days and evenings of our men and women who served, and continue to serve, our country. We are grateful for their individual sacrifices. As it often does, gratitude goes two ways. Carl spoke fondly of the people at his alma mater, including Marian Stefano (“Mother to Many”), the school hostess and social director who was like family to Carl, especially upon his return to campus. It is relationships like this one that no doubt made a positive impact on his future life as a husband, father of three, electrician by day, and cashier at the racetrack by night.

As a child, Karen recalls that her family ate dinner every night at 5:30 so her dad could join them before heading off to his second job. Honest and hardworking to the core, he taught his kids many lessons: “Do your best,” “Tell the truth and take your lumps if you make a mistake,” and “If you give your word, you have to mean it!” Whether it was building an A-Model Ford, repairing a home, hanging wallpaper, or putting up crown molding, Karen shares that her dad could fix anything, build anything, or watch and learn to do it if he didn’t already know!

Devoted and unconditional in his care for the people around him and organizations he served, one of the things Carl Tinnerholm cherished most was Perkiomen School. It was a string that extended through his entire life.

From that 12-year-old boy to Navy veteran and head waiter, to Board member through the 90s and early 00s, and finally a Life Trustee, Perkiomen was one of Carl’s loves. He showed this in many ways: simple gestures like checking in with beloved Perkiomen staff, sending cherished baby gifts, or having an ornament of Kriebel Hall on the light above his kitchen table. “Uncle Carl” as he was known to some was sweet, nostalgic, honorable, and fun. A collector of Americana like Shaker furniture and New York Yankees memorabilia, Carl loved preserving irreplaceable items, perhaps knowing that there is something warm and iconic about history and a past that has shaped who we are.

Carl Tinnerholm (the namesake of Tinnerholm Way on campus) and his daughter Karen have dedicated an endowment to The Tinnerholm Family Fund scholarship. Since her father’s death in 2012, she has expressed intent to leave her very own bequest to substantially bolster this fund to assist even more Perkiomen students.

It is in this spirit, and with their considerable generosity, that Carl, and now his daughter, Karen are helping to ensure our past informs and invests in a future for Perkiomen students.