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GRC plans annual recognition dinner

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 12:46 a.m.
Dr. Michelle Bartus and Dr. Peter Nelson attend to Nikki at Valley Veterinary Service Inc. in Rostraver Township on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. Marking its 50th year in business in 2013, the veterinary hospital will be honored as the business of the year by the Greater Rostraver Chamber of Commerce at its 37th annual Recognition Dinner Thursday.

Dr. Michelle Bartus didn't so much choose a profession as it chose her.

“It was easy for me,” Bartus said. He (her father, Dr. Frank Bartus) took me on farm calls. I stood on a stool and watched as he took care of the animals.

“I was surrounded by animals.”

She met her husband, Dr. Peter Nelson, at the University of Pennsylvania. The couple married in 1982 while they were still attending veterinary school, graduating in 1984.

The couple has operated Valley Veterinary Service Inc. in Rostraver Township for 29 years. They will be honored as the business of the year at the 37th annual Greater Rostraver Chamber of Commerce Recognition Dinner Thursday in the Willow Room.

Rostraver Business Association initiated the Founder's Day dinner in 1976. That event recognized one individual instrumental in business or volunteer work in the township.

In 2007, the Greater Rostraver Township Chamber of Commerce changed the event to a recognition dinner, honoring three from its membership.

“It evolved from being associated with Rostraver Business Association to a broader recognition membership-wide because a lot of our members work outside the township,” said Gina Lynn, executive director of the Greater Rostraver Chamber of Commerce.

The business of the year is chosen based on outstanding community support, involvement and leadership.

Bartus recalled when the couple first received an e-mail informing them of the honor.

“Our first reaction was, ‘Really? Isn't that for older people?'” Bartus said with a laugh.

“We still think of ourselves as young and new in business. I guess the award is recognizing that we've gone through the storms of business cycles and are still here.”

“We appreciate the honor,” Nelson added. “There's certainly a lot of fine businesses in our area so it's an honor to be singled out.”

Bartus credited their employees for their part in the honor.

Dr. Frank Bartus opened Mon Valley Veterinarian on Route 201 in 1963. His daughter and son-in-law joined as partners upon graduation from veterinary school.

Valley Veterinary Service Inc. was the first American Animal Hospital Association approved veterinary facility in the area, having gone through a rigorous inspection program to bear the title, “AAHA Approved,” in 2006. The business is a full-service medical and surgical facility with three veterinarians, eight credentialed veterinary technicians, four veterinary assistants, and a certified dog trainer.

“The chamber is important to us because it's important to have colleagues going through the same things we're going through in business and supporting each other,” Bartus said.

The business draws from a wide ranging community, with customers bringing their pets from as far away as Pittsburgh.

The couple have also given back to their extended community. Nelson has served on the chamber and library boards. But the doctors also do mission work and are involved in the Westmoreland County Animal Response Team for animal-related emergencies.

The veterinarians have also made mission trips to the Dominican Republic to provide sterilization and vaccine services for animals.

“Community is not just what is local here, it's mankind helping mankind,” she said.

Bartus said animals provide healthy companions for people, especially those who live alone.

John Maisch will be honored for his community service and volunteer work.

A 1954 graduate of Ohio University, Maisch served in the U.S. Army for two years, attaining the rank of lieutenant.

He then began a career with General Motors Corp. with human relations assignments in auto plants in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

His last assignment was director of salary personnel at GM's technical center in Warren, Mich., where he retired in 1987 after 33 years of service.

He moved to Rostraver in 1993. Maisch is active with the Rostraver Public Library as a board member and member of the endowment fund committee. He provides volunteer services to his church and other non-profit organizations in the area.

Jim Fowler, owner of Fowler Lawn Care Service and McShane's Florist and Greenhouse, will receive the Young Professional of the Year. The award is given to an up and coming young professional in “who displays the entrepreneurial spirit and dedication needed to operate a successful business,” Lynn said.

“This is a person with a great business sense, who has the energy and drive to build and expand their business,” Lynn said.

Fowler has operated his local lawn care business for the past 13 years and purchased McShane's in 2007.

He recently expanded the business when he added a wine shop featuring wines from a Sheffield, Pa., winery.

A graduate of Belle Vernon Area High school, Fowler earned his undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of Pittsburgh in 2004, and his master's degree in business education from Robert Morris University in 2005.

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