McKeesport foundation facilitates Pirates ballgame trip for Army vet
An Army veteran and longtime Pirates fan is headed to PNC Park Saturday to watch his favorite ballclub battle the Colorado Rockies.
Joe Stark, 81, of East McKeesport was joined by family members and friends at Community Life McKeesport Thursday morning when Allison Gricheck presented him with four Lexus Club tickets to the game, dinner reservations, parking pass, a Pirates hat, shirt and picture frame, and a certificate of honor and thanks.
She is the secretary for Twilight Wish Foundation's Allegheny County branch. Tickets were donated to the Foundation by the Highland Park Care Center.
“I'm feeling great,” Stark said. “I haven't seen a Pirate game in a couple years. It's gonna be a great time. They're winning. It's the perfect time (to see a game). I'd like to thank them all, Community Life and the organization (Twilight Wish). What more can I say?”
“This is such a pleasure and honor to stand before such a wonderful gentleman that's done so much for the community and your country,” Gricheck said during the presentation.
Gricheck said they originally planned to send Stark to spring training in Florida, but that did not work logistically. She also thanked Highland Park Care Center for their generous gift.
Stark was given a black and gold baseball-themed cake and patriotic balloons.
“I've known about it for a few weeks, but I didn't expect anything like this,” Stark said. “I just figured someone would come with tickets. It really made me feel great. I (have followed) the Pirates since I was in grade school. Ralph Kiner, he was my favorite a long time ago.”
His favorite player now is pitcher Jeff Locke.
Stark was a corporal in the Army during the Korean War, serving as an instructor at Fort Carson in Colorado from 1953-55.
He said he trained divisions in tactics, patrols, map reading and other intelligence and recognizance measures, but never went overseas.
Stark also coached football, baseball and basketball youth teams when he was younger, and is known for his generosity and concern for others.
“This is a shock,” Stark's daughter Kristine Stark said. “I thought he was just getting a couple Pirate tickets. Community Life is the best thing we've ever done for him. They're so supportive with Twilight Wish doing this for him. All he does is worry about everyone else and puts himself last.”
Kristine Stark will go with her father, his granddaughter and one of the granddaughter's friends to Saturday's game.
Community Life is a nonprofit organization that provides comprehensive health and social services to frail, elderly adults so that they can continue to live in their homes.
Community Life submitted a wish request to Twilight Wish to recognize Joe Stark for his services.
Twilight Wish Foundation is a national nonprofit charitable organization that grants wishes to deserving, economically disadvantaged seniors. It has granted more than 1,900 wishes since its founding 80 years ago.
More information about the organization is available online at www.twilightwish.org.
Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or firstname.lastname@example.org.