YARDLEY BOROUGH >> A new bench now adorns the front of the Yardley Community Centre, a gift to the town from a grateful son.
On Dec. 15, Arman Ibric joined Dr. Joseph and Claire Eberhart and Bill Moculak to dedicate the new bench to the memory of his mother, Spomenka Ibric, and to thank Yardley for sharing its heart with an immigrant family fleeing from a vicious and bloody civil war.
The new bench bears a photograph of Spomenka, the devoted mother of three who passed away July 11 at the age of 60.
“There’s no better place for me to put a memorial then where our story started and our story started here in Yardley,” said Arman. “I wanted to do something for her, but also for the community. If it wasn’t for this community we wouldn’t have gotten the chance that we got.”
Spomenka and her husband, Zijad, along with their children, Arman, Tiana, and Tajma, fled the bloody Bosnian War and immigrated to Yardley on Memorial Day weekend in 1994.
In Bosnia, the family had lived near the city of Mostar. Zijad and Spomenka owned and operated a very successful furniture store until war broke out and changed the course of their lives.
When the young family arrived here with just $20 in their pocket and unable to speak English, they were taken in and sponsored by the parishioners of St. Andrew’s Church, who opened their hearts to the family providing them with a temporary home at the Rectory, plenty of food and help in adjusting to life in their new home.
“Yardley has been a part of our lives from day one,” said Arman, who arrived here at just 18 months. “If it wasn’t for the community we wouldn’t have had money to live. The church gave us free food and free shelter. The Eberharts introduced us to many people who helped get my mom and my dad a job. It was a team effort from the community.”
Since arriving here, Arman has graduated from Pennsbury High School and the Penn State University and now works for the Arm & Hammer Company.
His oldest sister, Tajma, graduated from Temple University and is now the CEO of a company in New Jersey. His other sister, Tiana, earned her Master’s from Kutztown University in criminal justice.
Shortly after arriving here, his dad, Zijad, found work at Waste Gas Fabricating in Tullytown. Twenty-six years later his father now runs the entire steel fabrication department at WGF.
Spomenka initially worked at McCaffrey’s Market before starting her own cleaning business in 1996. Among her first clients were the St. Andrew’s Parish House, the Eberhart home and the Yardley Community Centre, which she faithfully cleaned up until her death.
After staying at the St. Andrew’s Rectory for between six and eight months, the family was able to rent a home on Pennsylvania Avenue before buying their first home in Fairless Hills. Today they’re living in Lower Makefield.
“In 26 years of living in America, outside of visiting family, my mom had never taken a vacation,” said Arman.
“We are where we are today because of my parent’s hard work,” said Arman. “It’s the true American Dream story about a family who literally came here with nothing and has everything in the end - a house, cars, all three siblings educated and with good jobs. In my eyes it doesn’t get better than that.”
“Spomenka was a loving woman and the hardest working woman I have ever known and she did it with a spirit. She always seemed to be so happy. And that spirit lives,” said Dr. Eberhart.
“There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t think about her, that we don’t mourn her loss,” Eberhart continued . “She has meant so much to us. We are family. She certainly incorporated us into her’s and we incorporated her’s into ours. A Wonderful woman.”
His wife, retired Pennsbury teacher Claire Eberhart, helped teach the family English after they first arrived and in the process quickly became part of the Ibric’s extended family.
“She immediately recognized in them the eagerness and brilliance that they have,” said Dr. Eberhart. “And she didn’t just teach them, she took them to movies, she took them to ice cream parlors and we took them to New York and Broadway.”
Arman is hoping the bench gets a lot of use by the community, from people walking by who need a place to rest to families looking for a spot to enjoy some water ice or just someone who wants to watch as the world goes by.
“There’s a lot of foot traffic here. But the only place you can really sit down is at Lake Afton, Buttonwood Park or at the Yardley Borough Hall,” he said. “I thought this would be the perfect idea.”
The Yardley Community Centre’s Board of Directors agreed, giving Arman permission to pursue the bench memorial.
“It’s a simple gift for a great mother,” said Arman.
“She was certainly worthy of it,” said Moculak. “Your story is an inspiration and her dedication to this building was phenomenal. You could tell it was more than a job. She really took care of it.”
“For us, the Eberharts are family. If something means a lot to them like the community Centre, it means just as much to us,” said Arman, who literally grew up around the Centre helping with the set up and take down for programs and events. “This is like home.”
Dr. Eberhart called the bench “a lasting tribute and a reminder” of an individual who devoted their heart and soul to the Centre. “Every time I’m reminded of her I’m nearly brought to tears because we miss her a lot.”