Like so many Lehigh alumni, Mark Lieberman '79 was sorrowed but proud to share his views on Helen Chro, 86, former owner of Al's Lunch, who died on April 3. As he put it, "She was one of those Lehigh fans that gave her heart, soul, and wallet to Lehigh students and student-athletes. She fed us a massive meal and rarely accepted more than a dollar in payment. When we were down, she would fire us up. When we needed mothering, she was the best."
Lieberman and Steve Shields '71 were among those concerned enough to look after Helen in her retirement after serving so many meals at her famed Center Street location. When Lieberman earned a major feature in Sports Illustrated in February 1979, writer Doug Looney got most of the details right when he wrote: "The sign in front of the narrow, decrepit restaurant with the dirty windows and eight wobbly stools at the counter says 'Al's Lunch.' But Al is dead. Everyone calls it Helen's. Helen Chro, 60, will never die; legends don't. Her place hard by the tracks in Bethlehem, Pa., is a classic greasy spoon, so classic, critics say, that it's the kind of joint that gives greasy spoons a bad reputation. Nonsense. Helen's is one of the world's great eateries. The menu on the wall offers sandwiches called Rat, Gigaroni, Audrey, and Weber. Nobody knows what they are. Doesn't matter. You simply order what you want, and Helen fixes what she wants you to have."
Helen was thrilled that same year to be honored by the Lehigh University Alumni Association with its Good Neighbor Award. When her obituary appeared in The Morning Call after her death, there was one error. It read: "No immediate survivors."
In fact, Helen leaves behind countless Lehigh alumni whom she treated as family and friends. Many felt the same way about her.
--Denny Diehl '70
Lehigh Alumni Bulletin
Posted on Wednesday, June 22, 2005