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Street renamed to honor former McKeesport mayor

| Friday, Aug. 23, 2013, 1:16 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
With help from his family, former McKeesport Mayor Lou Washowich reveals a street sign in his honor as the name of Marshall Drive Extension officially is changed during a Thursday ceremony.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Former McKeesport Mayor Lou Washowich shares the history of the Marshall Drive Extension project during a Thursday ceremony renaming the road in his honor, as Mayor Michael Cherepko and state Rep. Marc Gergely listen.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Lou Washowich's family braves the rain to be part of a Thursday ceremony in which Marshall Drive Extension was renamed in the former mayor's honor.

McKeesport and state officials paid tribute to a former mayor by renaming a road in his honor.

Lou Washowich Way was open to traffic on Thursday following an afternoon ceremony in an August shower.

“They say when it rains, it brings good luck,” Washowich said. “So maybe we're going to have good luck.”

He was accompanied by family and friends as he revealed the new street sign.

The former Marshall Drive Extension connects Haler Heights to Route 48 and is used as an access road for Tom Clark Chevrolet.

Washowich was mayor from January 1980 through Jan. 3, 1995. He was instrumental in bringing the car dealership from Versailles to McKeesport, and for conceiving and initiating the plan for Marshall Drive Extension.

“I think it's extremely important that, when you talk about the future, you don't forget about how you got to where you're at, those individuals who have played significant parts in the city through the tough times, difficult times and through the good times,” Mayor Michael Cherepko said.

The mayor recalled that it was Washowich who gave the young Cherepko a summer job at City Hall.

“I remember the good days cleaning the mayor's office,” Cherepko said. “The one thing I always remember about Mayor Washowich was just how down to earth he was and how friendly he was.”

Washowich said he did not seek personal recognition, but worked only “in the name of public service.”

“When (renaming the street) was brought to my attention, I said, ‘I'm not in favor of it,'” he said. “I just never looked for things like this. Once you pass your time in life and you're on your way, you let other people take the accolades. I had enough when I was there for 15 years.”

The road was completed when James Brewster was mayor.

“To be a mayor in any town is very special, and it's probably the hardest job I've ever had,” said Brewster, now a state senator. “Mayor Washowich was mayor of McKeesport at a very tough time. It took a tough man, intellectually and physically, to do this job. The naysayers said this couldn't be done. It's done because of the groundwork that Mayor Washowich put forth for us.”

Washowich shifted the credit for the road and for bringing in the car dealership to former McKeesport Development Corp. chairman Jack Hess, former community development director Dennis Pittman, and Clark.

“It took an extended period of time to package this thing together,” Washowich said. “We held hands. We did what we said we were going to do, and this is what came about. Jim Brewster finished the road.”

State Rep. Marc Gergely, D-White Oak, said Washowich was an inspiration for his political career.

“You got me started on this path that I can't thank you enough for, and you're the first mentor I ever had,” Gergely said. “One of the pieces of advice that I tell people still to get elected is, when you take on these responsibilities, when you take on these roles, you're going to be able to count the best friends you have and those you trust on one hand.

“Lou, you couldn't have been more articulate when you said that then. I live that to this day.”

City officials plan to rename Water Street as Joe Bendel Way in honor of the late mayor,who succeeded Washowich.

Bendel served through Jan. 3, 2000, and is credited with having the vision for the Marina at McKees Point.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965 or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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