Meet Pa. House GOP leader Kerry Benninghoff: Woodworker, history buff, knows how to make an impression

House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff is entering his 13th term of office in the state House of Representatives. Before he was a state representative, he served as Centre County coroner. While his service in those elected positions may be common knowledge or readily available on his website, there are some other lesser known aspects of his life he recently shared with PennLive.

Here they are:

  • He is the father of five, his oldest is 38 years old and his youngest was daughter Ryleigh who died of cancer in 2010. She would have been 17 on Thanksgiving. He has seven grandchildren with another one on the way. They call him Pap Pap.
  • He was adopted as a child and his birth mother named him Steven John. He has a book inside him that he wants to write about his experience of tracking down information about his birth parents.
  • His first job was as a handyman, yard boy and snow shoveler for the wife of his family doctor. He earned $8.50 as his first paycheck plus two three-scoop raspberry ice cream cone, the first one fell on the ground after a couple of licks.
  • He is into woodworking and known in particular, for his cornhole boards but makes picture frames and trains too.
  • He enjoys tearing apart old houses, marveling over how they were constructed a century ago, and then remodeling them. He tacks a dollar bill in the walls so the next person that tears it apart can find a hidden treasure.
  • The first impression he – or rather his old rundown three-speed Ford truck with poor compression – made on Gov. Tom Ridge was during Benninghoff’s first term in the House. The freshman lawmaker’s truck was parked on the ramp in front of the Capitol when it rolled down the hill smack into the front of the governor’s Lincoln Continental. He remembers the phone call he received from the governor’s office, “The governor would appreciate it if you would remove the truck from the front end of his car.”
  • No piece of lumber he gathers goes to waste. He repurposes it. For example, he plans to make a table from a 19-inch-wide piece of lumber he took off a wall in the house he is currently remodeling in Snowshoe, Centre County. Pieces that get too small become food for the wood burner in his garage.
  • He surrounds himself in his office with photos of his family and inspirational sayings such as one given to him by then-Rep., now-Sen. Scott Hutchinson that reads: “Does this proposed legislation enhance or restrict our freedom.”
  • He has a deep appreciation for history and relishes working in the ornate Capitol, taking in even the smallest detail of its architecture and artwork right down to the dents in the tile floor from the many shoes that have passed over it.
  • He is a man of faith. He belongs to the Methodist church and said he believes in the power of prayer. “I’ve seen that many times. Lived it. Tried to share it with my own children.”

Jan Murphy may be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @JanMurphy.