Lifelong volunteer will lead Mt. Pleasant festival parade
As young girl growing up in Queens, N.Y., it didn't take very long for Marie Albertini-Dawson to find a way to lend a hand.
At the time, she was an eighth-grader attending St. Elizabeth's Catholic School in the easternmost of the five boroughs of New York City.
When the secondary classes let out at 2:45 p.m. daily, Albertini-Dawson took notice of a nun who taught first grade there known to her only as Sister Carlene, and her efforts to keep students occupied until their end time of 3:30 p.m.
One day, she approached the young nun to ask her if she would like some help looking after the children.
“I went down there and I'd read those kids stories, sometimes for 45 minutes, until their parents came to get them. I did it five days a week. It was fun,” Albertini-Dawson said.
Such a drive to aid those around her has continually symbolized the life of Albertini-Dawson, who has lived in Mt. Pleasant since 1977.
It's what compelled the Mt. Pleasant Glass & Ethnic Festival committee to name Albertini-Dawson as parade marshal for the 27th annual event's Main Street procession to be held at 2 p.m. Saturday in the borough.
Borough manager and festival committee co-chairman Jeff Landy, who in 1986 co-founded the festival with borough Mayor Jerry Lucia, vowed that a better candidate to fulfill that role could not be found.
“Marie has been a hard worker for years,” Landy said. “She's been the ultimate volunteer for this community.”
Albertini-Dawson first moved to Mt. Pleasant with her husband, Al, and the couple's three young sons: Donald, Al Jr. and Brian, who at the time were ages 12, 9 and 4, respectively.
“We had friends in Scottdale that we used to come see, and my husband's a baker and he got a job at Barsotti Brothers in the Southside, and the rest is history,” she said. “Coming here was a good move. To me, Mt. Pleasant is like country after you come from New York.”
Prior to moving to the area, Albertini-Dawson's volunteer drive led her to become a denmother with the Cub Scouts of America in New York.
Upon her arrival, Albertini-Dawson admitted it took some time to get acclimated.
“It was culture shock. But my three boys were in school all day, and you can only cook and clean so much, so I decided to start volunteering in the community,” she said.
Albertini-Dawson started volunteering at Frick Hospital by taking water to patients and delivering their mail to them. Over the years, she took on increased responsibility there, including data entry using computers in the 1980s.
One day in 1990, Albertini-Dawson said she noticed an ad in the newspaper seeking volunteers for the Mt. Pleasant Glass & Ethnic Festival.
“When I first got involved with the festival, we would send out sponsorship letters for the parade, take pictures of the festival each year, and hold different fundraisers around the year,” she said.
Albertini-Dawson also volunteered at the festival food booth.
Eventually, Albertini-Dawson once again earned even more responsibility, as the festival committee entrusted her with making a yearly photo album containing festival photographs and articles from all the local newspapers.
She said her proudest festival accomplishment came when the late U.S. Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Johnstown, a Mt. Pleasant native, nominated the festival for the Library of Congress's Local Legacies Project.
“I followed their guidelines and I worked for months on compiling the pictures and news articles of all the previous years and submitted it to the Library of Congress,” Albertini-Dawson said. “Once we were accepted, we were invited to Washington D.C., for the induction party.”
Albertini-Dawson's philanthropic largesse also extended to the nation's military, as she helped organize a group to support service men and women during Operation Desert Storm.
She personally received and kept track of all applications for military veterans' names which appear on the Veteran's Memorial Wall and accompanying tablets at Veteran's Park in the borough.
“That was a project in itself, but I am patriotic,” Albertini-Dawson said.
Having volunteered for several years in the 1990s for a telephone answering service at the borough building, Albertini-Dawson became secretary for former state Rep. James Shaner upon his election to represent the 52nd Legislative District in 1994.
“I'm a people person, that's all I can tell you,” she said.
Albertini-Dawson worked for Shaner until his retirement from office in February 2006, when she was retained later that year by current state Rep. Deberah Kula, D-Fayette/Westmoreland.
“When I was elected, so many people in Mt. Pleasant asked me ‘You're going to keep Marie, right?'” Kula said with a laugh. “Her heart started in New York but her heart is now in Mt. Pleasant. She puts her whole heart into everything she does there.”
As far as all the attention she has received since being appointed parade marshal,
Albertini-Dawson said she would just as soon work quietly behind the scenes.
“I'm try to be a giver; I'm not much of a receiver,” she said.
However, she did receive one thing for her volunteer services she has kept all her life — a medal given to her by Sister Carlene for the aid she rendered so long ago.
“I still have it,” Albertini-Dawson said. “The only time I took it off was when I was a patient in the hospital.”
During Saturday's parade, Albertini-Dawson will be riding in the lead car with her grandson Killian Dawson, 11, and her granddaughters Sylvia Dawson, 12, and Abigale Dawson, 8.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.