Former Pennsylvania governor receives Hance Award from Richland's St. Barnabas Health System

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Vietnam War veteran Tom Ridge affectionately spoke in military terms last week when he visited St. Barnabas Nursing Home in Richland to accept the 2013 Hance Award.

The award honors a nationally known person who exemplifies the ideals of Gouverneur Hance, the New Jersey native who founded St. Barnabas Health System, and once begged on Pittsburgh streets to help the poor.

“It's a very, very special mission that these people have,” Ridge said about the health system's staff. “This campus has such a marvelous reputation.”

Dressed in a natty, pin-striped suit and purple tie, the former Pennsylvania governor drew a standing-room-only crowd to the chapel at St. Barnabas Nursing Home.

“I thank you for your service to the community,” Ridge told the home's workers. “The men and women for whom you care depend heavily on your professionalism and the personal relationships you develop over the years. You really get a sense — as soon as you walk in — about all the care giving and support you provide.

“It's a challenging profession. It's a demanding profession,” Ridge said about the business of caring for the infirm. “But the rewards are deep and personal and emotional.”

Former Allegheny County Executive Jim Roddey nudged Ridge to accept the Hance Award and speak at St. Barnabas Charities' fundraising Founder Day's dinner on May 2 at the Marriott Pittsburgh North in Cranberry.

Ridge also spoke at a May 2 welcoming ceremony at St. Barnabas Nursing Home. Roddey emceed the welcoming ceremony.

“Jim Roddey gets all kinds of stuff with his phone calls” Ridge joked after accepting a 4-foot “key to the campus,” from William Day, president and CEO of St. Barnabas Health System.

“I'm not sure the secretary of transportation would let me get on a plane with that,” said Ridge, the first and former secretary of the U. S. Department of Homeland Security.

Ridge, 67, of Bethesda, Md., now heads Ridge Global, a Washington, D.C.-based security consulting firm.

At St. Barnabas Nursing Home, state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Bradford Woods) and state Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Shaler) joined the patriotic crowd who attended Ridge's welcoming ceremony.

Rama Godse, a sophomore at Fox Chapel Area High School, also read aloud her winning composition for the Founder's Day Essay Contest Award.

The contest asked participants to reflect on what they might say to a U.S. military veteran at St. Barnabas Nursing Home about his or her role in protecting homeland security.

“American veterans risked their own safety so no harm comes to us,” Rama wrote. “We owe everything to the men and women who put the cause of liberty before their own lives.”

Ridge applauded Rama's dramatic reading of her essay, and then posed for photos with World War II and Korean War veterans who live in St. Barnabas.

The veterans included former U.S. Navy machinist Ben Herr, 88, of the Arbors of Valencia.

Herr survived the World War II invasion — on June 6, 1944 — of Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. He remembers seeing “boys coming out of the water with both arms gone, crying for their mamas,” Herr said, fighting tears.

Ridge also posed for a photo with Herb Dankmyer, chairman of the Richland Township board of supervisors, who is recovering at St. Barnabas Nursing Home from a stroke.

In previous years, Dankmyer picked up a number of past Hance Award winners at Pittsburgh International Airport, including aviator Chuck Yeager and actress Debbie Reynolds.

Other previous Hance Award winners include former President Gerald Ford, Fred Rogers, Terry Bradshaw, Rocky Bleier, Norman Vincent Peale, Art Linkletter, Barbara Bush, Willard Scott and Charlton Heston.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

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