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Price was right for The Mail and community

| Thursday, April 25, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Some people write a more distinguished legacy than others in this business of journalism and newspapers.

Harry Earl Price was such a man.

And when he died at age 78 on June 5, 1959, Price was remembered as far more than the president of the Mail Publishing Company, which produced The Charleroi Mail. He was, as the newspaper emphasized at the time of his death, “respected as a dedicated community leader, active for more than half a century in civic affairs beyond number.”

David S. Bosson, executive manager of the Charleroi Chamber of Commerce, emphasized the sentiments of the community when he said the passing of Price “... is cause for reflections on the part of every Charleroian.”

“A pioneer bulwark, his personal integrity and positive spirit were indicated in the early and rapid growth of Charleroi,” Bosson said the morning of Price's death. “The Charleroi Chamber of Commerce, of which Harry E. Price was a former president, joins with the community in gratitude for his countless contributions to Charleroi.”

Significantly, Price's death occurred on the 60th birthday of The Charleroi Mail, with which he was actively associated since early boyhood. He rose from press-boy to president of the company during a distinctive career paralleled by only a handful of others in this mid-Monongahela Valley.

As early as 1905, Price was among the administrative leaders of The Charleroi Mail. He was business manager of the Mail Publishing Company, which was guided by Thomas P. Sloan, editor and publisher; and S. Walton Sharpnack, secretary-treasurer. Karl Keffer Jr. was city editor. Price continued in that position seven years later, working with Edward C. Niver, who served as editor. Stockholders as of June 30, 1913, were Sharpnack, Niver, Price and William C. Walters, all of Charleroi, and Agnes Sloan of Lock Four.

Price later became foreman of the newspaper and eventually general manager and president.

He was born in Speers on Nov. 22, 1880, the son of Leroy and Amanda Fuller Price. He was educated in the public schools of Speers and at the age of 14 became a printer's apprentice in the office of The Charleroi Mirror, a weekly newspaper later consolidated with The Daily Mail to form The Charleroi Mail.

The front page story about Price's death on June 5, 1959, did not carry a byline but it reflected on his professional achievements this way:

“Throughout a long career as director of this newspaper he dignified and honored the profession of journalism. During two World Wars he headed defense bond activities. In the Great Depression of the early ‘30s he directed cash and food distribution to the unemployed and needy, turning a singularly fully-balanced account for every cent expended, a six-year job of perfection for which he received state and county commendation.”

The newspaper also noted that Price's death “came peacefully at dawn” in Charleroi-Monessen Hospital, where his “efforts had for three decades helped nurture and expand that institution.” He was a member in-honorarium of the hospital's board of directors at the time of his death.

Prime extended his commitment to community and others far beyond the newspaper. He was a member and past president of the boards of Charleroi Chamber of Commerce, California State Teachers College and Charleroi School District. One of his “least known but most tireless pursuits,” The Mail recalled, was as nominal head of Charleroi Associated Charities.

He also was a member of First Methodist Church of Charleroi, past president of Charleroi Rotary Club, member and executive of the Washington County Motor Club, Charleroi Lodge of B.P.O. Elks, and a member of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers Association. In 1948 he was honored as Charleroi's Outstanding Citizen by Post 22 of The American Legion. In presenting the Legion award to Price, Arch Osborne, who received the honor a year earlier, offered this testimonial:

“Mr. Price has never done anything for personal reward, but has said he felt he should give what he could of himself in return for the community has done for him.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by The Charleroi Mail in reporting Price's death.

“Always an exponent of a Greater Charleroi, he gave readily of his time and valued space in The Mail for every worthy enterprise,” the newspaper said. “He was a friend and business associate of the late Gov. John K. Tener, an association which dated back into their youth. Later, through his friendship with the late Gov. Gifford Pinchot, he was instrumental in securing construction of the present Highway Routes 71 and 88.”

The Mail also recalled that in the 1926 “History of Washington County,” Earle Forrest said of Price: “His efforts for the benefit of the community have not failed of appreciation, for he has long been numbered among the representative men of Washington County. He merited the esteem and respect in which he is universally held by those who know him.”

“Those at The Mail and countless friends today echo this sentiment upon the passing of a faithful husband, devoted father, firm and unswerving friend ... A Grand Boss,” The Mail stated.

The late John Bunardzya, longtime sports editor of The Charleroi Mail and The Valley Independent, whose acclaimed newspaper career spanned nearly 50 years, offered a poignant personal tribute to Price in his popular Sportraits column on June 9, 1959. The essay was titled, “An Open Letter To The Boss,” and read, in part, as follows:

“When they told me ... you weren't going to be with us any longer, I had the strangest feeling come over me. I gulped hard several times, felt the goose-pimples pop out all over and my heart was heavy with sadness, as it will be always now that you are gone. I felt as I did when I lost my father nearly 13 years ago.”

Bunardzya recalled his first meeting with Price in 1945 and being hired by him to be sports editor of The Mail. He also emphasized that Price had “many good qualities” and the one he liked most was his “strong love of sports.”

“My, but we had a lot of nice chats about the good old days when you use to keep score for the Charleroi (baseball) team in the old P-O-M (Pennsylvania-Ohio-Maryland) League,” Bunardzya wrote. “I'm sue the Pirates were your favorite team, that you stuck by them through thick and thin, even when they were a strictly minor league team playing major league baseball. And I still recall your strong admiration for Honus Wagner as the greatest player the game has ever known. I used to smile when you related how you and your friends used to travel to Pittsburgh by river boat to see the Pirates play at old Exposition Park.”

Bunardzya also called attention to Price's love of football and his devotion to watching the Charleroi High School teams play.

“You prided yourself in being a member of the Charleroi Board of Education during the mid-1940s and later serving as its president,” he continued. “Many of your fine ideas on organization and economy are being carried on by present-day board members, simply because they find them hard to improve upon.

“Folks at California State Teachers College will always have a special spot for you in their memoirs because of the important role you played in the school's expansive development shortly after World War II when you served as a member of the Board of Trustees.”

Bunardzya concluded his tribute to Price by emphasizing that no matter how many diversions his late boss had and “no matter how many extra-curricular duties you performed, they always took a back seat to your first love – the newspaper.”

“It was your ‘baby' so to speak and you always treated it as such,” Bunardzya wrote. “And I recall you telling me of the trials and tribulations you experienced by building The Mail Publishing Company into the fine and great institution it is. The heartaches, pitfalls, sweat, blood, tears and sacrifices it took so that your ‘baby' could grow big and robust and healthy. As your ‘baby' grew, so did Charleroi and you were so proud of both.

“As a publisher, you were subjected to all kinds of criticism because you were a public servant, but you never let it bother you. What most of your critics overlooked is the fact that you were acting for the best interests of the people as a whole – not for any individual or small group.

“They're the same ones who conveniently ‘forgot' that you had dedicated your life to serving the public as a newspaperman, as a humanitarian, as a good family man, as a civic-minded citizen, as a God-fearing worshipper. Nor did they know of the many acts of kindness and charity you performed in your lifetime spanning 78 wonderful, glorious and eventful years before you finally wrote ‘30' on this earth.”

Ron Paglia is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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