Colleagues, friends remember longtime Charleroi councilman Reis
Harry Reis was just 17 when he and Charleroi classmate Mel Bassi together enlisted in the U.S. Navy.
He served in the Pacific Theater during World War II, beginning a lifetime of service and commitment.
Reis passed away Wednesday in Dunlevy Gardens Personal Care Home. He was 87.
“Harry was a part of what we called the Greatest Generation,” said Washington County Common Pleas Judge Mike Lucas.
Lucas, who served as solicitor of Charleroi Council during Reis' career on the board, said he first met Reis at Mary Mother of the Church in Charleroi, where Reis was an usher.
“He was the guy who greeted you with a nice, firm handshake,” Lucas recalled. “Even if he did not know you, he reached out to you.”
A longtime steelworker and union representative at the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Allenport Plant, Reis' career hit a zenith in 2005 when he was inducted into the Washington-Greene County Labor Council Hall of Fame. Richard Trumka, then secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, and Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, were on hand that night.
“He was honored that night for all of his work on behalf of unions,” Lucas said. “And that for guy who had humble beginnings.”
Lucas said councilman Mark Alterici or then-borough manager Bob Hodgson often picked up Reis at his home during the final months of his council career so he could attend meetings.
“He could barely walk but he wasn't missing a meeting – that's how dedicate he was,” Lucas said.
“And we were all the better for it.”
Hodgson, who was borough manager from 2001 to 2012, said Reis was diligent. “If he believed in something, he went after it,” Hodgson said.
“He was a very good man. He was a good councilman, he was a good friend and he was straight down the middle,” Hodgson said.
“They are few and far between – councilmen like Harry Reis.
“He is Charleroi.”
Paul Pivovarnik said his memories of Reis go back to when Reis was a steelworkers' union leader and Pivovarnik was a hospital grievance man.
“I was a young grievance man and I attended some seminars where he spoke,” Pivovarnik said. “He was a wealth of knowledge. He was inspirational.
“He was a fiery union president who had everybody toe the line.”
Pivovarnik said Reis taught him “to be honest with an endeavor you do.”
“It was just his charismatic demeanor. He was an all-around likeable man who stood out.”
Alterici, served with Reis during 14 of 20 years on council. In total, Reis served 16 years during two stints on council.
He stepped down last summer for health reasons.
Reis was first elected to council in 1981 and served for eight years. After being off council for 18 years, he was again elected in 2007 and 2011.
“What I really liked was with Harry, you always knew where you stood,” Alterici said. “He was always honest – never anything phony. He really, really cared about the borough.”
A huge fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Reis coached one of the first Valley teams to go to the PONY World Series in the 1970s.
In his younger years, he was involved in youth baseball and gave a lot of time to his community.
Alterici said the borough will miss Reis.
“You only hope there are people who are as dedicated to the borough as Harry was,” Alterici said.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.