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Monessen pair finds home in Kentucky

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Herbert Howell owner of Howell Craft Inc. shuts the doors on a Monessen gas log fireplace insert at Howell Craft inc. In Elizabeth. Jim Ference | The Valley Independent

William Tweardy and Gary Bello met when they were 12, growing up in Monessen in the late 1950s.

Partners on the Greyhounds' boys' tennis team, they were good friends in school. They graduated from Monessen High School and went their separate ways.

Many years later they met in Kentucky, where their business venture was formed in honor of their hometown.

Bello earned a degree in industrial engineering from Penn State University.

Tweardy earned a degree in metallurgical engineering from Lafayette College.

Tweardy worked for Westinghouse Electric, first in Pittsburgh and then in Austin, Texas.

Bello moved to Kentucky from General Motors in 1982, working for the Clark Material Handling Company, the lift truck division of Clark Equipment in Lexington, Ky.

Lexington is centrally located in Kentucky, 90 miles south of Cincinnati and 90 miles east of Louisville.

Tweardy came to work for Clark Equipment in 1986.

“We worked for Clark until they sold the company in 1993,” Tweardy said. “We pooled our resources and bought Stamping Ground Tool And Die.”

Together, Tweardy and Bello purchased Stamping Ground Tool And Die and converted it into a company that produces hearth fireplaces, gas logs, wood burning. They named the company in honor of their hometown, Monessen.

Thus Monessen Hearth Systems was born.

Monessen Hearth Systems Company is a leading supplier of hearth and grill products throughout North and South America, Asia and Europe. Under its four brands, Vermont Castings, Majestic, Monessen and Ambient Technologies, MHSC offers a full line of direct vent, natural vent, vent-free, wood-burning and electric fireplaces, inserts and stoves as well as outdoor grills and heating products. With more than 600 employees and four locations, MHSC is proud to be on the cutting edge of design, efficiency and environmental technology and responsibility, the owners said.

“We said, “Let's name it after our hometown. It will be something unique and identifiable,'” Tweardy recalled.

“We had a wonderful experience growing up in Monessen, which we were proud of. We had a great high school experience.”

Occasionally, Tweardy said, the company's name would conjure up memories from customers or business acquaintances who were familiar with Monessen.

The two Monessen natives sold the company in 2006. “We were getting into our 60s and looking to divest ourselves and company doing quite well,” Tweardy said.

Tweardy said he last visited Monessen five years ago for a cousin's wedding in the Pittsburgh area.

“I came back to drive around and see the place,” Tweardy said. “It was quite disappointing – when you grew up Monessen in the 1950s and 60s.”

Tweardy said he is looking forward to coming home for his 50-year high school reunion.

“It was a very interesting experience since Gary and I were friends from childhood,” Tweardy said. “To buy this company and grow it into successful company. It was a wonderful experience.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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