Duquesne-West Mifflin Rotary Club celebrates 60th anniversary
Sixty years ago, a McKeesport businessman, the late Sam Hirshberg, called a Duquesne businessman to tell him he had a check for him — and a proposition.
“We want to start a Rotary Club in Duquesne,” Hirshberg told Dom Toretti.
Toretti said he had no idea what a Rotary Club was, and didn't think he was cut out for it because he was a TV repairman, not a businessman.
But by 1953 Toretti had a business, Dom's TV and Appliance, which still operates in The Village Shopping Center along Homeville Road in West Mifflin.
And that call from Hirshberg was the start of a 60-year relationship that was celebrated by the Duquesne-West Mifflin Rotary Club at a dinner meeting on Thursday night at Westwood Golf Club.
“We were always a very active club,” said Toretti, who turned 87 last week and is the last surviving co-founder.
“He has made this place better for many families, and especially for children,” Joan Mills, program manager of A Child's Place at Mercy said in a message read by current club president Bob Macey.
“I got involved in (what now is the Mon Yough Area Chamber of Commerce) and I got involved in the Rotary because of him,” Macey said, calling Toretti a personal mentor, a community steward, “and a top-notch businessman.”
“(Dom Toretti) welcomed me and I'd visit him over at his shop,” recalled Ken Fair, 69, who was asked in the mid-1990s by his employer, the old West Mifflin General Motors plant, to represent it at Rotary.
“It turned out to be a very rewarding experience,” said Fair, a Penn Hills resident who retired from GM in 2001.
“This is one of the most important events that I want to be at,” said Rotary Club District 7300 Governor Tom Fallon, who attended the dinner along with governor-elect Walter Sickles.
It was part of an event that also celebrated the club's 60th anniversary — and the union of Dom and Betty Toretti that also dates back six decades.
“Behind this successful man stands his wife Betty, who has shared and supported the ideals and service of Rotary with him these past 60 years,” is inscribed on a plaque presented by club officers.
The local Rotary Club's achievements include what today is the Duquesne-West Mifflin Boys & Girls Club. Pat Bluett, its long-time director, was among those in attendance.
“It did a lot with the kids,” said former Duquesne mayor Melvin Achtzehn, who recalled another Rotary program that adopted children in Germany.
“Being a small club we have done more projects than most,” Toretti said.
Others recalled how, in the mid-1990s, when a community in Argentina needed an ambulance, the Duquesne-West Mifflin Rotary Club was able to obtain one after the merger that produced the former Prism Health Services.
Some of the members engineering that effort included Howard Jessup and Susan Williams Place, two departed members recalled on Thursday by Place's husband Mark, still club treasurer, and Jessup's sister Mary, who runs her brother's Allegheny Valley Transfer Co. in West Mifflin.
Michael Plazewski, now the club sergeant-at-arms, said the ambulance was filled with medical supplies and equipment and sent to a suburb of Buenos Aires. It was a smooth trip, up until the end.
“Customs held it hostage,” current club secretary Alan Schultheis said.
“The dock people are used to getting gifts,” Plazewski said, recalling the bribes needed to complete the donation.
Toretti saw a club evolve but never gain all that many members — its peak of 36 came early.
“This has been small but very, very strong,” said Schultheis, one of several past club presidents in attendance at Westwood Golf Club.
It eventually became the Duquesne-West Mifflin-South Hills Rotary.
However, Toretti recalled, “they (in the South Hills portion) wanted to move it over to Whitehall. I said, ‘No way.'”
Toretti and the club also received proclamations from Allegheny County Council, on which Macey represents Mon-Yough area District 9, and both houses of the General Assembly.
“We also recognize Dom for his unwavering support of the Rotary's cause and ideal of ‘service over self,'” read the proclamation signed by state Sens. Jay Costa Jr., D-Forest Hills, who represents West Mifflin, and James Brewster, D-McKeesport, who represents Duquesne.
Jennifer Halaszynski, chief of staff to state Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg, presented a proclamation on behalf of the state House of Representatives.
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McKeesport Area teacher fired amid sex scandal returns to school
- Additional negotiating session fails to resolve threatened East Allegheny strike
- ‘Shocker’ tourney honors memory of pro wrestler from McKeesport
- 2nd area Speedway store nears completion
- East Allegheny officials confirm strike, notify parents
- Return to classes means it’s time to strike up the bands once again
- Elizabeth Forward School District fosters high-tech culture
- Students’ use of iPads a minefield
- Electrical problem sparks fire in McKeesport truck
- Sex offender held for court in address registration case
- Mon River Fleet seeks nominations for Women of Achievement awards