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Columnist opens another mixed bag of memories

| Thursday, Sept. 25, 2008

Inadvertently overlooked in the recent nostalgic reflections of Monessen native Dr. Jennie Hunter-Cevera was one of her best friend, Lorraine Yakimyshin.

"Lorraine's mother used to drive us to Redd's Beach in the summer," Hunter-Cevera, president of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, recalled. "They owned a beautiful Pontiac convertible and Lorraine's mom was very chic. I felt like a celebrity riding in that car. We had a lot of great times."

Hunter-Cevera, a 1966 graduate of Monessen High School, also remembers such close friends as Beverly Smith, Dean Wilkins, Judy Civic, Melvin Clayton, Bobby Kerns, Patty Mehrmann, Clay Stapleton, Stephen Rechichar, Ruth Ann Turcaso and Selma Wade in her fond memories of growing up in Monessen.

Hunter-Cevera's sister, Melcena, was one of the top gymnasts in the area for several years. A 1973 graduate of Monessen High, she performed with youth teams in Monessen and later starred at MHS and West Virginia University as well as on the AAU level.

A cheerleader in high school, Melcena attended WVU on a gymnastics scholarship and started as a freshman.

Now Mrs. Melcena Medincino and a teacher at Monessen Elementary Center, she was an assistant basketball coach and women's trainer at Monessen.

Speaking of gymnastics, a thoughtful reader sent a copy of the April 28, 1953, edition of The Charleroi Mail. Among the stories featured on the sports pages that day was one calling attention to Madonna Moussiaux winning her first gymnastic championship as a member of the Charleroi Turn Verein.

Competing in the junior women's division, Miss Moussiaux received a gold trophy award after winning the all-around championship in the AMA-AAU meet at the McKeesport YMCA. Coached by veteran Charleroi gymnastics instructor Hans Oechsle, she also received a gold medal for finishing first on the parallel bars, side horse vault, rings and free calisthenics.

Two other Charleroi girls, Beverly Brown and Loretta Lorenzo, also took part in the junior women's meet under the local Turners banner.

Teammate Patsy Hobbs, a pre-meet favorite with Miss Moussiaux, was sidelined with an injured wrist.

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Penrod, former instructors at the Charleroi Turn Verin, were in charge of the Monessen Turners competitors in the McKeesport event. Two of their proteges placed in the meet, with Joanne Giannini finishing third on the balance beam and Janet Tressler fifth on the rings.

Fast forward to March 28, 1979 and other female athletes were in The Valley Independent spotlight.

Monessen High basketball standout Lori Milika was added to the post-season Colt Classic at Chartiers Valley High School. A 5-10 senior, Milika was Monesen's leading scorer in 1978-79 with a 20-point average and established a single-game record with 41 points in an exhibition contest against Oliver.

The Lady Hounds finished second in the WPIAL Section 3 race that season and bowed to eventual state champion Franklin Regional in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

Across the Monongahela River, Charleroi Area High's girls basketball team was doing well in the Ozanam Tournament in Pittsburgh.

With 6-1 Terri Payne turning in a strong all-around performance with 18 points and the same number of rebounds, the Lady Cougars throttled Mars, 69-44, in the second round of the Ozanam event at Reizenstein Middle School in Pittsburgh. Payne had solid support as four other CAHS starters also hit double figures. Debbie Fallenstein tallied 15 points, Jodi Peppel and Renee Rockidge each added 13 and Pam Gustovich hit 10. Rockidge and Gustovich also helped Charleroi dominate the boards with 16 and 11 rebounds, respectively.

Scholastic tennis also was showcased in The Valley Independent that day as Monessen coach Darlene Pushnack looked ahead to a new season without top player Pam Leone, who graduated in 1978. Returning starters for the Greyhounds were Wendy Lane and Claudia Zupan. Pushack also pinned her team's hopes on Mark Silko, Tom Manderino, Joe Zelczak, Ken DiGioia and Angela Korsistos.

Elsewhere on the area sports front in March 1979, California State College pitcher Jim Robertson threw a no-hitter in the first game as the Vulcans swept a doubleheader with Robert Morris College, 4-0 and 2-0. Robertson, a junior righthander, ran his record to 2-0 by facing only 22 batters, one more than the minimum, and striking out seven. He became the first Vulcan hurler to win a no-hitter since Dave Berger blanked Indiana, 2-0, in 1974. Cal State's Dave Lostetter pitched a no-hitter against West Liberty in 1976 but the Vulcans lost that game, 1-0.

Cal State's Stan Oleski was nearly as tough on Robert Morris in the second game of that March 27 doubleheader as he threw a two-hitter to run the Vulcan pitching staff's scoreless streak to 16 innings. Leading the Vulcans' offense that day were Dan Urbine, Bill Fowkes, Rick Broadwater, Steve Luko, Joe Korpar, Dale Martinini and Mark Eckels.

While the collegians were already 10 games into their season, scholastic baseballers were still preparing for their new campaign.

Tony Barchetti, athletic director and football coach at Monongahela Valley Catholic High, was at the helm with the Spartans. Among the most promising players he cited in a story by Mike Bodura were Jim Ravasio, Bob Kolessar, Bill Greco, Tony Polaski, George Carter, Mike Filchock, Jeff Matty, Bob Boyer, Jim Crow, Tom Parent, Pete Tucker, Dave Foglia, Dave Frick, Kevin Wassilchak, Rick Bordini, Martin Livingston and Laura Damico.

Yep, you read the last name right - Laura Damico. She was the only girl on any scholastic baseball team in the area.

(If you have memories to share or a story idea, contact Ron Paglia at or c/o The Valley Independent, Eastgate 19, Monessen, PA 15062.)

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