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Harrison man an icon to pool lovers

John Masarik is an icon at Sylvan Park Pool in Harrison.

He helped develop the private swimming pool and served on the engineering committee. He has been manager at the pool ever since it opened on July 4, 1965.

Masarik was born and still lives in Natrona Heights with Melissa Jane, his wife of 53 years. He loves the small-town atmosphere of the Valley.

"If anybody needs any assistance, there is someone there to help," Masarik said. "We still have that hometown flavor."

After Masarik graduated from high school, he enlisted in the Army where he served for three years during World War II. He was a member of the 76th Infantry Division, Regiment 304.

He received a Combat Infantry Rifle Badge, a Purple Heart for being wounded in action and Bronze Star for valor during combat.

Masarik declined to talk about his war experiences, however.

After he left the military, Masarik attended the University of Pittsburgh and received a bachelor of science in health and physical education. He later earned a master's degree in education.

Masarik was a public school teacher at several high schools for more than three decades, but said he doesn't believe in the word 'retire.'

"I left education in 1984 after 34 years of service," Masarik said.

That service included being a health and physical education teacher at Freeport, Winfield, Knoch, and Highlands High School. Masarik was head of the aquatics program at Highlands.

And every summer, Masarik would return to Sylvan as manager.

Masarik said he loves his pool, his employees and the members that swim there. He said that safety is his number one priority, and that members and guests are held to strict rules and guidelines to uphold safety.

"We're very tight on the rules here -- it's a matter of safety," Masarik said. "We want the parents to feel that they are safe, and know that their children are safe, too."

In addition to his managing duties at Sylvan Pool, Masarik also teaches swim class.

"The very first ones that step into the water learn to swim from me," Masarik said. "I'm still involved with teaching -- that is my profession."

Masarik said that after 42 years as manager, Sylvan Pool means many things to him.

"Sylvan, to me, is a philosophy. It's a way of life," Masarik said. "Sylvan is also an adventure. It's a journey through a summer of fun. We call it paradise."

The pool is immaculately maintained and the grounds are spotless, too.

Masarik said that the most rewarding thing about being Sylvan Park Pool manager is watching the young people who pass through its gates grow up. He also enjoys instilling a solid work ethic and responsibility in his employees.

"It's great to watch these youngsters mature into fine individuals who make solid contributions to society," Masarik said. "Sylvan attracts quality people, because there is structure here."

Masarik reports that his health is good, and he wants to stay at Sylvan Park as long as he is able.

"I would like to contribute a few more years to Sylvan," Masarik said. "I'll take as much as I can get."

Jocelyn Kramarik has worked at Sylvan Park for the past eight years. She said that the pool is "phenomenal," and she constantly receives compliments on the facility. She gives all the credit to John Masarik, and the care he takes with Sylvan, the staff and members.

"The pool is what it is today because of him," Kramarik said. "That says everything there is to say."

Additional Information:

John Masarik

Age: 81.

Hometown: Natrona Heights, Harrison.

Family: Wife, Melissa Jane; sons John and Michael; daughters Kimberly Ann and Mary Elizabeth; grandchildren, John, Jamaica, Cody, Joshua, Jennifer, Nicole, Michael, Nathan, Cole, and Jarrod.

Favorite thing about the Valley: 'The congeniality of our people -- this is a small town, and people know each other.'

Motto for the Valley: 'The whole area where I live in is modest, and the people are modest.'

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