Sign highlights Monongahela's 'extraordinary street'
Park Avenue in Mononghela officially is "One Extraordinary Street."
"It always has been, but I suppose you could say the sign confirms what everyone here has known all along," Laura Magone said at the dedication of a commemorative plaque near the corner of Park Avenue and Main Street. "Park Avenue and, more important, the people there are truly unique."
Magone, a Monongahela native now living in Pittsburgh -- where she works as an independent film maker and business consultant -- produced a documentary, "One Extraordinary Street," that focuses on famous, successful and "just ordinary" people who grew up on Park Avenue.
The large bronze plaque recognizing Park Avenue and Magone's documentary evolved as the result of a promise by Monongahela City Councilman Thomas Caudill when the film made its public debut in October 2008.
"Tom certainly has made good on his promise," Magone told nearly 200 people at the dedication ceremony. "I am truly grateful to him and his colleagues on council, the mayor (Robert Kepics) and the city work crews for their commitment to this project. At the same time, I am deeply humbled by what has happened. (The sign) stands as a testimonial to all the people of Park Avenue."
Caudill lauded fellow council members Ken Kulak, Daryl Miller and Claudia Williams; Kepics; City Clerk Carol Foglia and Street Department employees for bringing the plaque to fruition.
"It certainly wasn't a one-man show, many people must share in the credit," Caudill said. "We looked at several sites and decided this one is best. What you see here, the sign, the bricks and the amenities are the result of a team effort to bring well deserved recognition to Laura and the outstanding people of Park Avenue."
Magone pointed out that the bricks in the walkway surrounding the sign were donated by Pete Dzmiera.
"Pete bought the property where the Scott home was located near the (Monongahela) Elementary Center and didn't hesitate to donate them to this project," Magone said. "They are of historic significant because the bricks were made at the old brick yard on Park Avenue."
She also said the Monongahela Area Revitalization Corp., a nonprofit organization, is selling the bricks as a fundraiser. Individuals can purchase bricks and have names inscribed on them for display at the plaque site.
Magone also reminded her audience that a nearby sign commemorating the Whiskey Rebellion calls attention to the fact that "... it has been 216 years and one day since the Whiskey rebels gathered on this same site."
"Yesterday (Aug. 14) was the anniversary of that famous protest," Magone said. "Today, we celebrate the people of the Park Avenue neighborhood. "I guess we could have gathered here yesterday but we didn't want to steal (rebellion leader) Albert Gallatin's thunder."
Magone said the accomplishments of the people of Park Avenue "are amazing."
"Their dreams, many would have said, were impossible," she said. "People told us the same thing when we set out to make the documentary - that is was impossible. The said I didn't have the funding or the track record to achieve my dream of interviewing these folks and completing this project. The extraordinary people featured in the documentary had dreams and made them come true. I thought, 'Why can't I?' Thanks to so many people who helped, (my) dream did come true."
Magone's documentary spotlights but is not limited to such people as author Deidre Bartolotta Bair; four-star Army Gen. Carl E. Vuono, who was the nation's 31st Army chief of staff, and his brother, Pittsburgh attorney John Vuono; retired National Football League stars Joe Montana and Fred Cox; Dr. Walter Cox; and Aldo Bartolotta, president of Mon Valley Foods and a longtime community leader and philanthropist.
"Everyone on Park Avenue had dreams," Magone said. "You have to have dreams, set your sights on them and grow with them each day. In the case of Park Avenue, dreams changed the world."
Ashley McMahon, 17, a senior-to-be at Ringgold High School, enhanced Magone's dream theme with a stirring and professional rendition of "The Impossible Dream" from "Man of La Mancha."
McMahon is the daughter of Randy and Sandy McMahon of Monongahela and the granddaughter of Jack and Beverly DeHainaut of Lock Four. Her paternal grandfather, the late Free McMahon, grew up on Park Avenue was a longtime community leader known for his involvement in sports programs.
Magone's niece, Annie Geller, 18, of Squirrel Hill, also participated in the program as she released nearly 50 butterflies, symbolic of wishes and dreams.
Also recognized were Mary Korey, film editor for the documentary, and her husband, Jay Korey, a graphic designer who created the commemorative plaque, as well the Monongahela Area Historical Society and its president, Susan Bowers, for their continuing support and help.
The Rev. Robert Coyne, pastor of St. Anthony Roman Catholic Church in Monongahela, offered a blessing to open the program.
Magone presented DVDs with interviews of the documentary subjects to Alina Filander, director of the Monongahela Area Library. The DVDs and special "One Extraordinary Street" posters are dedicated in honor and memory of Carl and Rose Vuono and Bruce Bartolotta.
The new sign, the documentary and other aspects of the project "capture the spirit of the wonderful people who are a legacy of family and community unsurpassed anywhere," Magone said.