Mon Valley chamber honors 4 for success, service
CARROLL TOWNSHIP – With Bill Lee and John “Bud” McGinley among its honorees, the Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce awards ceremony Thursday had a distinct Celtic tilt.
“Tonight, there's a lot of Irish in the room,” said chamber President Armand Ferrara Jr., who happened to be wearing a green tie. “I thought it was St. Patrick's Day.”
However, with Lee bellowing a powerful rendition of “God Bless America” and McGinley, a World War II veteran, leading the Pledge of Allegiance, the chamber honored the entrepreneurship and opportunity of America.
The chamber presented four awards at Monongahela Valley Hospital's Anthony M. Lombardi Conference Center to the following:
• Don Good, human resource manager at World Kitchen LLC, in Charleroi (Outstanding Business Award).
•McGinley, president of Shamrock Chemical in Charleroi (Excellence in Business Award).
• Darlene Bigler, executive director of Community Action Southwest of Charleroi (Regional Service Award).
• Lee, a 30-year owner and operator of Lee Supply in Charleroi (Shining Star Award).
Good accepted the award on behalf of World Kitchen following a brief video presentation from the Food Network featuring the history of the Charleroi plant, which manufactures Pyrex glassware.
The company furnished a Pyrex pie plate for each person in attendance. Good said the plant plans to increase its Charleroi-based operation.
“Yesterday, there were state representatives in our building, and we're always looking for ways to expand the facility,” said Good, noting plans to manufacture colored glass products in the near future.
“We have the area and the capabilities. … It may not just be glass, it may be other things. So, it's a great story going on in Charleroi, it's a great thing for the Valley and we're always happy to be partnered with the chamber.”
McGinley, an outgoing and energetic 87 year old entered and exited the stage to a loud standing ovation.
The founder of Shamrock Chemical and McGinley Maintenance Inc., he opened his company in 1959 after losing his job as a janitorial supplies salesman.
“We were going to do a three-minute (video), but can you imagine showing three minutes of cleaning restrooms and selling toilet paper?” said McGinley, eliciting a burst of laughter.
The company employees three generations of McGinleys – as well as 300 workers in five states – supplying products and services to banks, schools, government facilities and warehouses.
It all started in a garage in Carroll Township more than five decades ago.
“You're born where you are and your life is imprinted forever,” McGinley said.
“I was born in Charleroi and my philosophy is: Bloom where you're planted. No matter where you're planted, do your best. It might not be any good, but try, try, try.”
McGinley, who served with the Army Air Corps and volunteers at a shelter for veterans, said he's been on every continent but Antarctica. He declared that nothing compares to living in the United States.
“We have faults, but by God, you can't beat this country,” he said, adding it was a good thing Lee sang a patriotic song because if not, he would have done so.
“Compared to where I've been, you can't believe how great we truly are.”
Bigler offered a short speech, representing Community Action Southwest, a nonprofit agency with 238 employes in Washington and Greene counties.
“It is a very difficult thing to follow Pyrex and Mr. McGinley,” she conceded to a round of laughter. “The Mon Valley is a wonderful place to work, and we are so well supported with partnerships and volunteers. We couldn't do our hard work without all of you.”
The agency provides services ranging from work skills for adults to early education for children.
Finally, Lee, who received the chamber's top award, lauded his fellow honorees.
He called Word Kitchen a powerful player in the global economy.
“World Kitchen – we've always known them as Corning Glass – they compete with China, Taiwan, Japan, and we have a plant right here in Charleroi,” said Lee, recalling a some long-past sleepless nights at his home because of the sound of clinking glass from the factory.
“I think everyone ought to be proud of that plant. We've lost some industries and they're growing.”
Lee honored his “fellow Irishman,” McGinley.
“Bud McGinley has been one of my idols,” Lee said. “He was dedicated to his work, to his family and his faith, and has been very successful. That's who I'd like to emulate. Bud, God bless you.”
Lee confessed he wasn't initially familiar with Bigler's agency, but was quickly impressed with its actions.
“They're an organization that is not a ‘handout,' it's a ‘hand up,'” Lee said. “They want to help people to get back up, and that's always been my philosophy.”
Chamber Executive Director Deb Keefer presented a short slide show that included a young, wide-eyed Lee as an altar boy.
“I heard there was a strong inclination for him to become a priest,” Keefer said. “I think, Bill, with your talent for uplifting people, you would've made a fine priest. But I know God took you down another path.”
Lee listed one of his greatest accomplishments as helping form the Charleroi Regional Police Department, which serves Charleroi, North Charleroi and Speers boroughs.
“The Valley has changed, and when the Valley changes, we have to change. … The chamber has regionalized and that is what we have to do,” he said. “We would like to say we'd like to bring the Valley back to where it was – I don't believe that will ever happen – but we sure as hell can make it better. We have to stay involved.”
The Speers mayor and a volunteer with Charleroi Food Bank, Meals on Wheels and Mary Mother of the Church, Lee serves on several local boards.
Lee thanked his siblings and children, credited his father and mother with instilling in him a strong work ethic and giving spirit, respectively, and honored his wife, Mary Lou, who “put up with this big Irish guy for 46 years – and it's been a great run.”
Lee, whose childhood nickname was “Wort,” added: “I am most proud of my name, William. I was named after a cousin who was killed in World War II.”
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.