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Independent-Observer year in review: Part 3

| Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 9:03 p.m.
Marilyn Forbes | For The Independent-Observer
Camille Hunter, 12, of Mt. Pleasant hung her homemade ornament on the community tree during the annual Scottdale Winter Light Celebration in December.
Evan R. Sanders | Trib Total Media
Jeff Wishart sets up a generator to power his business, JJ’s Pizza, Nov. 1, on Pittsburgh Street. The pizza shop lost power as a result of a powerful storm that swept through the region. Borough Manager Angelo Pallone said some 800 customers lost power as a result of the storm, which forced the Southmoreland School District to close for the day as well as St. John the Baptist Catholic School.

The following is a review of news from September through December 2013 as reported on the pages of The Independent-Observer.


• A reconfiguring of the boundaries of five district justice offices in Westmoreland County results in cases in Hunker, New Stanton and a small portion of Hempfield being presided over by Scottdale District Judge Charles Moore.

• Southmoreland School Board approves California University of Pennsylvania for home football games due to extensive damage at Russ Grimm Field, caused by torrential storms in August.

• “The Boardinghouse” takes to the stage at the Geyer Performing Arts Center. The cast includes members of two families. These include Marilyn Forbes and daughter Chelsea and son Nathan as well as husband and wife, Ernie and Laurie Watson.

• Southmoreland School District secures the services of Eckels Architecture and Engineering of New Castle to aid in the process of replacing the surface at Russ Grimm Field.

• Six members of the Scottdale Volunteer Fire Department run in the first Fallen Heroes 5K run/walk in full gear.

• Thirty copies of the book “Dead End in Norvelt,” written by Mt. Pleasant native Jack Gantos, are donated to fourth-grade students at Southmoreland Elementary School by Summit Machine of Scottdale.

• Toriano Thomas, 42, of North Huntingdon is arrested on multiple charges by Mt. Pleasant police after the department receives a tip that a large amount of marijuana is going to be brought into the borough.

• The annual three-day fall festival survives a soggy Saturday and is deemed a success. Plans begin for the event's 40th anniversary in 2014.

• Southmoreland Elementary School is recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School, one of just 286 in the country to be so recognized and one of just 15 in Pennsylvania.

• The Southmoreland football team captures its first victory of the season with a 14-13 win over Waynesburg. Aaron Bailey leads the Scotties with 117 yards rushing and two touchdowns.


• Kaylee Cummins is selected as Southmoreland Homecoming Queen.

• The school district repeats as champs in the “Hunger Challenge” by collecting 1,065 pounds of canned good, which was delivered to the Westmoreland County Food Bank.

• Connellsville/Scottdale Salvation Army celebrates its first anniversary.

• Southmoreland tennis team clinches a spot in the playoffs after finishing tied for third in Section 1-AAA with Derry Area. The Scotties open with a 4-1 win over Highlands before falling, 5-0, to perennial power Sewickley Academy.

• The boys soccer team also makes its way to the postseason, opening with a 1-0 win over Beaver, before losing, 4-0, to South Park.

• Copies of the student-compiled book, “Scottie, You Are Special” are approved to be placed in each of the Southmoreland School District libraries.

• Jake Pisula rushes for 248 yards on 24 carries as the Scotties defeat Brownsville, 23-6.

• The volleyball team defeats South Allegheny, 3-0, during a “Dig Pink” event. Proceeds from the game went to the “Side Out Foundation,” which unites volleyball players and coaches in the fight against breast cancer.

• Gary and Christina Phillips of Scottdale take part in the “Dash for Down Syndrome” in honor of their daughter Luciana, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth. They are joined by more than 30 of Gary's coworkers from Wood Group Mustang Inc.

• Everson Council announces plans to enforce a curfew for youths under the age of 18.

• The Reading Olympics are declared open at Southmoreland Primary Center.

• Sophomores Ben Bickerton and Riley Beistel qualify for the PIAA cross country race in Hershey.

• Nearly $1,000 is raised at a craft show, from which proceeds go to aid in the medical bills for Jerry Younkin. The former Scottdale fire chief suffers from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

• Jake Pisula rushes for 303 yards and four touchdowns in a season-ending 50-7 victory over Derry Area. Along the way, Pisula eclipses the school's single season rushing mark with 1,609 yards. The mark had been held by Ken Dworek, with 1,477 yards in 1986.

• Ty Kinter is awarded a $1,500 scholarship from the Westmoreland County Music Educators Association.


• Incumbents Levi Miller and Gail Rhodes, as well as Robert Callaro and Cheryl Byers Shipley, claim the four vacancies on the Southmoreland School Board.

• Award-winning educator and performer Paula Purnell hosts an entertaining and educational event about music at West Overton Museums.

• Twenty-eight descendants of Henry Clay Frick visit West Overton Museums.

• The Geyer Performing Arts Center ends its 25th anniversary celebration with “Man of La Mancha.”

• A drug raid in Mt. Pleasant breaks up an oxycodone ring in which five people acquired $140,000 worth of the prescription painkillers through 96 forged prescriptions for 8,433 pills from several pharmacies in Westmoreland and Fayette counties.

• Former McKeesport Area Superintendent Timothy Gabauer takes over that same post at Mt. Pleasant.

• Pitcher Anna Marie Gatti signs a letter of intent to play softball at Syracuse University the same day her catcher, Kelsey Kuhns, signs a letter with Seton Hill University.

• Respiratory therapist James Williams, 47, of Scottdale is charged with punching an elderly patient at William Penn Care Center.

• East Huntingdon Township supervisors pass a $5.4 million budget that keeps taxes the same. The township has not had a tax increase in about 40 years.

• Sheila Suhan of Scottdale places second in the 46th Pillsbury Bakeoff contest in Las Vegas with her Easy Caprese Pizza.


• Bullskin Township supervisors keep taxes the same with the adoption of a $1,287,464 budget for 2014.

• Scottdale Council makes it official with the adoption of a 2014 budget that keep the tax levy at 20 mills.

• Heather Hixson of Scottdale donates the wheelchair that belonged to her son Ian to the family of Richard Wingard III of South Union. Wingard's was destroyed in a Dec. 1 fire. The youngster was born with cytomegalovirus. Ian Hixson died in January. He had cerebral palsy and was diagnosed in 2011 with an inoperable brain tumor.

• New Hope Ministries opens Helping Hands Clothing Ministry on the ground floor of the New Hope Alliance Church Building, 229 Pittsburgh St.

• The movie “1/1,” which stars Judd Nelson, Lindsey Shaw and Dendrie Taylor, films scenes at various area locations such as Schaefer's Corner Market in Ruffsdale and the End Zone and Smilie's Family Restaurant in Mt. Pleasant.

• Upper Tyrone supervisors adopt a final budget that does not include a tax increase.

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or

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