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Newly named John K. Tener Memorial Bridge gets glowing reviews

| Monday, July 1, 2013, 12:11 a.m.

Irene Lesko of Jacobs Creek grew up under the Charleroi-Monessen Bridge.

As a youth, she would climb the steps at the end of the span. She remembered when the police station was located under the bridge. Her godfather had a shoe-shining business in the neighborhood beneath the span as well.

But after the bridge closed in 2009 – and reopening of the span that was under reconstruction was delayed – the 86-year-old Lesko was unsure if she would live to see the day when the bridge reopened.

Lesko said she told her son she had considered wearing a sign Saturday proclaiming, “Born in Lock Four Dec. 25, 1926.”

But the day that Lesko – and so many Mid-Mon Valley residents – thought might never come did so Saturday.

Amidst much celebration and an after-ceremony party in the North Charleroi Professional Plaza, the rebuilt bridge linking North Charleroi and Monessen was reopened to traffic.

“It's beautiful,” Lesko said. “I never thought that they would make it this beautiful.”

Lesko was among hundreds of area residents who attended ceremonies Saturday.

The former Charleroi-Monessen Bridge closed on Feb. 19, 2009, after an inspection revealed deterioration in the first 200-foot span closest to Monessen.

Built in 1907, the bridge was rehabilitated shortly after World War II and again in 1986.

During the closure, the span was renamed by the state the John K. Tener Memorial Bridge in honor of the former governor. Tener was president of the Merchantile Bridge Co. when the span was built at the turn of the last century.

Thelma Palmer, 95, was invited by North Charleroi officials to the ceremony because she is one of the oldest living residents of the borough.

“We surely did miss it for those four years,” Palmer said.

Irene Hlavacik, a resident of North Charleroi since 1945, enjoyed lunch at the professional plaza after the event. In the background a country band warmed up and the newlyweds, Robecca and Mike Castner mingled with the crowd, many enjoying hot dogs and hamburgers cooked on a grill by Lock Four firefighters.

“I think it's wonderful,” Hlavacik said of the bridge.

“We waited so long for it. They did a wonderful job.”

Charleroi resident Ed Hank walked across the bridge for a view of the events held in the center of the span before it was opened to traffic.

“I came down for one reason – to see all of my friends from Lock Four,” Hank said. “I was born and raised there.”

Likewise, Rick and Dorothea “Pookie” Hyk of North Belle Vernon, grew up in North Charleroi.

“I can't wait to use the bridge,” Rick Hyk said.

“It's been too long.”

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