Royal Bride-to-Be Meghan Markle Has Ties to Pennsylvania

A royal family connection has residents abuzz in a small town outside Harrisburg, reports.

Meghan Markle, who is engaged to marry Britain's Prince Harry, is the daughter of Thomas Markle, a 1962 graduate of Newport High School.

"We've all been excited about this and have been joking about it," said Loretta Strawser of Newport, who grew up across the street from the Markle family and is two years older than Tom Markle.

"We just laugh about when we're going to get our invitation. We're just having a good time about it," she said.

In an article in Elle Magazine, Meghan Markle talked about finding her voice as a mixed-race woman from a small town in central Pennsylvania. Markle's mother is African-American.

"Growing up in a homogeneous community in Pennsylvania, the concept of marrying an African-American woman was not on the cards for my dad,'' she wrote in Elle. "But he saw beyond what was put in front of him in that small-sized (and, perhaps, small-minded) town, and he wanted me to see beyond that census placed in front of me. He wanted me to find my own truth."

Loretta Strawser last saw Tom Markle two years ago in October, when he was in town for a gathering with his two brothers, possibly for one of their class reunions.

"I think it's exciting for Newport. My sister and I tell everybody that we knew Tom, that we knew the family," Loretta Strawser said.

She believes Tom left Newport soon after he graduated in 1962, and he now lives in California.

"He was always a nice guy, a nice person to be around," Loretta said.

She and others followed his career, which included work on TV shows including "General Hospital," and "Married With Children" and films.

Tom Markle's mother worked at J.J. Newberry's 5 & Dime in Newport, and his dad retired from Olmsted Air Force Base in Middletown. His brothers live in Florida and Oregon, she said.

"A young couple in love, it's great," said Sherri Markle, high school guidance secretary at Newport High School, whose husband's father is Tom's second cousin.

"It's definitely cute - they look in love,'' Sherri said. "Everyone in the family had been speculating when they had been dating for a while,'' she said. "I think it's very exciting.''

She only met Tom once - at a Markle family reunion that used to be held each year. "He was very nice to talk to, very laid back, low key," she said.

Michael Markle, Sherri's husband, had a similar impression. Tom was "very nice, down-to-earth," he said.

The royal connection "is kind of neat," Michael said.

Steve Hoke of Newport said he grew up in the neighborhood where Tom Markle lived, but he didn't know him well because of their six-year age difference.

According to The Morning Call, Tom Markle's family also has roots in the coal regions of Schuylkill County.

His great-great grandfather was Thomas Sykes, an English immigrant, who lived in Mahanoy City. The BBC came to the area earlier this year to explore the family's roots and produced a documentary that aired Oct. 28 on the BBC, but not yet in the U.S.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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