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Man keeps things in focus at Concordia Lutheran Ministries

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Monday, May 2, 2011

If you see Ron Reckhart, chances are good he'll be holding a camera. Or a piece of candy. Or both.

Reckhart, 74, has made it his mission to keep his apartment building at Concordia Lutheran Ministries stocked with photos and candy.

Albums filled with pictures are available for residents to flip through in the lobby of Haven I, Reckhart's independent-living residence. Events such as Concordia's annual Oktoberfest celebration and the anniversary of Haven I's reopening after a catastrophic fire have been documented by Reckhart's cameras.

Years ago he began photographing the milestones at Trinity United Methodist Church in Brackenridge, where his wife, Eileen, has since retired as church secretary. As the church prepares for its 200th anniversary, those pictures are coming in handy.

Reckhart estimated that he's filled nearly 50 albums with church photos over the years.

"I started back then with a Polaroid, but the pictures started to deteriorate," Reckhart said. "I switched to (a single-lens reflex film camera). Now I've got a new digital and I'm having a lot of fun with that."

Ron Reckhart doesn't use the LCD screen on the back of his digital camera when he takes pictures. A decades-old back injury forces him to look through the viewfinder.

But his injury, which nearly left him paralyzed and requires him to use canes or a walker to get around, doesn't prevent him from carrying around his camera.

He turned his attention to Concordia's activities after he and his wife moved there two years ago after living in Lower Burrell and New Kensington for years.

In addition to capturing special events, Reckhart takes head-and-shoulders shots of all Haven I residents.

"People use those books all the time for entertainment," Eileen Reckhart said.

His walker provides a handy place for him to stash the candy he likes to hand out.

Reckhart said he first was called the Candy Man when he was teaching at Highlands High School in the 1970s and had a science classroom above the cafeteria. To help his students hold out until their late lunch time, Reckhart would pass around candy.

He keeps the candy dish filled in the front lobby of Haven I, and passes out treats when dessert is considered subpar.

A spare room in the Reckharts' apartment is filled with storage tubs full of various candy. He delights in finding treats on sale and stocking up. He supplied boxes of candy canes for Christmas decorations.

Caramel creams and individually-packaged licorice are his favorites, but he says he tries not to eat a lot of the candy himself.

"It depends on whether my wife is looking," he said.

Ron Reckhart

Hometown: Winfield.

Age: 74.

Family: Wife, Eileen.

Favorite thing about the Valley: "You just want to keep coming back here. You can't beat how nice people are."

To find out more

Anyone interested in volunteering at Concordia Lutheran Ministries can contact Haven Program Director Cathy Questiaux at 724-352-1571, ext. 8518.

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