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Donora's Lomax back home at public library

Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
Dennis Lomax is shown at the Donora Public Library on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014.

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Dennis Lomax's love of reading and history were fostered in the Donora library.

Growing up in the late 1950s and 1960s in Donora, Lomax often went to the library, located in the Community Center at Seventh Street and McKean Avenue. He enjoyed reading biographies.

“I would go there after school,” Lomax recalled. “Generally, I'd go down there and get a book. I loved to read about history. That's where my love of history began.”

Although the library moved to a new building at 510 Meldon Ave. more than 17 years ago, Lomax is back to familiar grounds.

Lomax graduated from Donora High School in 1969, where he played basketball with future Major League Baseball star Ken Griffey.

“We won our section title, then lost to Sto-Rox in the WPIAL playoffs,” Lomax said.

He also competed in the high and broad jumps and was a member of the 80– yard relay team for the Dragons.

Lomax said he met up with Griffey once more after school, when the future Cincinnati Reds great was in his last year in the minors.

Lomax attended Mansfield State College, located 48 miles north of Williamsport, Pa., earning a degree as a secondary social studies teacher.

With just his student teaching externship needed to complete his degree, Lomax enlisted in the Army in January 1974.

He underwent his basic training at Fort Dix, N.J., and his advanced individual training at Fort Sill, Okla.

He would serve as an administrative assistant at Fort Lewis, Wash., and Osan Air base in South Korea with the air defensive artillery, which oversaw the missile sites there.

Other assignments over his seven year Army career included Presidio of San Francisco military base, and Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.

He served in the Army from 1974 – 77 and 1986 – 88.

In between, Lomax completing his student teaching.

But deciding that teaching wasn't for him, he began working for AT&T, and later Pacific Telesis.

When Lomax came out of service for the second time, he worked for Environmental Health as an administrative assistant.

“Because of the episode in Donora, I was motivated to do that work,” Lomax said of the Donora Smog of 1948, which ultimately became the impetus for the formation of the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

“We'd go to check on air samplers – we did a lot of field work with them.”

Working for the City of Sacramento, Calif., he fielded complaints about airborne food illnesses and contaminated swimming pools.

After 15 years of service, Lomax retired and returned home to live and work in Donora.

He has worked for the Donora library for the past eight years, thanks to Southwestern Human Services Inc., which places area residents 55 years and older with jobs. Within 13 months he transitioned over to an employee of the library.

Lomax lives within walking distance of the library.

His daughter, Melissa, lives in West Hazelton, Pa,

Lomax enjoys exercising, including walking, lifting weights and doing yoga.

He loves to watch movies and, of course, read.

He also has found a home, again, at the library.

“I like helping people,” Lomax said. “I have been a member of the library since I was 6–years–old. We have the Internet, books – everything.”

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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