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Penn United Technologies employees carry on late co-worker's good deeds

| Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, 10:56 a.m.
Penn United employees (from left) Sue Bryan, Dan Smith, Matt Muir and Sara Vincent pose on the four bicycles they bought at the Toys “R” Us in Cranberry for the Toys for Tots program in memory of colleague Mark Bishop.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Mark Bishop of Butler was a prolific volunteer for the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program. Bishop, an employee of Penn United in Jefferson Township, died in a car accident in February 2013.
Shopping carts filled with toys are lined up at the checkout counter at the Toys “R” Us in Cranberry. The toys were bought as a result of donations from Penn United employees to the Toys for Tots charity in memory of colleague Mark Bishop.

When a car crash took the life of one of their colleagues, a group of Penn United Technologies employees launched a collection for his favorite charity.

They ultimately were able to buy nearly $6,500 worth of toys for the Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots program.

Mark Bishop, 52, of Butler died in a Feb. 18 head-on collision on Route 68 in Connoquenessing. He had volunteered for the Toys for Tots organization.

“To hear the way he was killed struck us all — that's why we decided to do this,” said Don Roth, a Penn United employee who spearheaded the collection effort with co-worker Dan Smith.

Becky Shaw, Penn United executive administrator, said each year Bishop would bring a toy collection box to the tool-and-die company in Jefferson Township.

“He was very compassionate,” she said. “Mark's death was a tragedy, and Dan and Don took that tragedy and (their efforts), along with that of many other team members, and made it a blessing to so many children this Christmas.”

The employees collected $4,000 since Bishop's death. With store discounts and coupons, they were able to buy an additional $2,300 in toys at the Toys “R” Us in Cranberry earlier this month. All have since been donated to Toys for Tots.

The toys filled at least 20 shopping carts, they said. Their purchases included four bicycles, hula hoops, board games and toy trucks.

Nearly $2,000 was from the sale of Bishop's machinist tools, which his family donated to Penn United. Apprentices at the shop bought the tools, Smith said. A 50/50 raffle and donations yielded $2,000 more.

Bishop's mother, Gertrude Bishop, said the collection means a lot to their family.

“We know that Mark is up in heaven grinning from ear to ear,” she said from her home in Broken Arrow, Okla. “He would be really happy to know that the employees did this in his memory.”

She and her daughter, Holly Merkner, moved in August to be close to family.

Bishop said her son got involved in Toys for Tots through his aunt and uncle, who volunteered for the charity, as well as the Veterans Administration. His late uncle, Art Bishop, was a Marine.

Dennis Johnston, Toys for Tots coordinator for the Bantum Marine Detachment #743 in Butler, said Mark Bishop would sometimes volunteer for 12-hour days. He dropped off donation boxes, picked them up and then helped to sort the toys, Johnston said.

“He was a good man, well liked by the detachment. Everybody respected the guy,” he said.

Johnston said he was pleasantly surprised by the size of Penn United's donation.

“It's well needed. There are over 2,300 kids plus 11 organizations that got toys off of us last year,” said Johnston, who anticipates even greater need this Christmas.

“In the first five days, we got more than 1,600 kids signed up,” he said.

Sign-ups continue through the end of the month.

Roth said it helped all of them to know that something good was coming from such a tragic event.

“Every year, we're going to try to do something for Mark,” Roth said.

Crash update

In connection with the crash that killed Bishop, state police charged the other driver, Justin Enslen, 26, with vehicular homicide while driving under the influence.

According to police, Enslen was driving home after a visit to a methadone clinic in Cranberry. The drug used to treat opiate addiction, combined with other drugs in his system, impaired Enslen's ability to drive, police said.

At the time of the crash, his license was suspended due to a prior DUI charge, according to court records.

The case is pending in Butler County Court. The next action is a status conference next month.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or

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