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Connellsville area residents — home again and here to stay

| Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, 5:06 a.m.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Today, the Daily Courier continues “The Way We Were,” followed by “Where We're Headed,” a series of articles tracing Connellsville's past through the eyes of residents who lived it. From the 1930s through the New Millennium, “The Way We Were” will give a human perspective of Connellsville's boomtown years as well as its hard times and will end with a flourish, focusing on good news — we hope — for the future of our town in particular and Southwestern Pennsylvania in general. The series will end on Jan. 1.

Although of various ages, area residents Marilyn Weaver, James McIntire, Susan McCarthy, Charlene (Anderson) Williams and the Rev. Bob Lubic have a lot in common. They left Connellsville at a young age to forge careers away from home — then chose to return to where they grew up. As the old saying goes, home is where the heart is …

Weaver, 72, graduated from Connellsville High School as salutatorian in 1959, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio (near Cleveland), in 1963 — the same year that astronaut John Glenn orbited the Earth. That was a significant coincidence, as Weaver worked for more than 30 years at NASA's Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, throughout the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs, which landed Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin on the Moon in 1969.

Weaver retired in 1995, during the Space Shuttle program, with accolades — she received NASA's Exceptional Service Medal. She came home to Connellsville in 2002 to care for her mother, who passed away in 2007 at the age of 97.

Weaver is ending a four-year stint on Connellsville City Council, but remains active in many civic affairs. An active member of Wesley United Methodist Church, she serves as executive director of Wesley Health Center, a nonprofit medical facility that has provided primary health care for the uninsured for 25 years. She is also a member of the Lions Club and serves on the board of directors of Connellsville Community Ministries, among many other civic-minded groups.

McIntire, 68, is a 1963 Connellsville High School graduate who earned a bachelor's degree in business from Fairmont State College and West Virginia University. He and his wife of 46 years, Linda (Miller) McIntire, lived in Florida for more than 30 years, where they raised their family and where McIntire held several jobs. He worked in the seafaring shipping business for Birdsall Inc. for three decades.

The McIntires returned home after he retired. They live in Dunbar Township, along the Youghiogheny River near Adelaide — and along the Yough River Trail, which is now part of the Great Allegheny Passage, a trail that extends from Point State Park in Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Md.

McIntire is a great believer in the trail's development and is active in civic affairs, including Yough River Trail Council, which maintains more than 20 miles of the path between Layton and Bruner Run (near Ohiopyle State Park).

Williams, 57, has been married to her husband, Ray, for more than 30 years. They have two adult sons, and the joy of her life is her grandson, who loves playing in Connellsville's parks. Williams graduated from Connellsville Area High School in 1974 and attended Westmoreland County Community College, where she learned accounting — training that has served her well. She is an accountant with Trib Total Media at the Daily Courier. She has more than 30 years of experience working in accounting and office management in Fayette and Westmoreland counties.

Williams is also a writer. She has participated for the past three years in National Novel Writing Month and has published one novel, “Yesterday's Promises.” As a young woman, she moved to Philadelphia to be with her sister and worked at an actuarial evaluation firm. Within a year, she realized the move to the big city was wrong; she returned home to Connellsville. As she so eloquently put it: “Being away felt like a part of me was missing.”

McCarthy, 57, is also a 1974 Connellsville Area High School graduate; she and Williams were classmates. After earning a journalism degree at West Virginia University in 1978, McCarthy moved to Washington, where she worked in advertising for several years. She found the D.C. area stimulating but overwhelming.

McCarthy returned home to Southwestern Pennsylvania, where she worked in marketing and advertising. At one point the corporation she worked for merged with another and wanted her to transfer to Chicago. In her words: “Connellsville's winters are cold enough for me. No way am I going to Chicago.”

McCarthy returned to Fayette County, where she served as public relations director at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. In 2004, she struck out on her own, forming McCarthy Public Relations in Connellsville. She said her business is thriving and she has great hopes for the future.

Lubic, 48, is a graduate of Geibel Catholic High School in Connellsville. He earned a bachelor's degree in business at Penn State University. He entered St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe in 1991 and was ordinated in 1996. From there, the Diocese of Greensburg assigned him to various churches, including Mt. St. Peter's in New Kensington, St. Barbara's in Harrison City and Holy Family parish in Latrobe. He was at St. John the Baptist in Perryopolis for five years and admits that it was difficult to leave his parish family there when he was reassigned to Connellsville's Catholic churches in 2012. He was welcomed with open arms and said he is happy to be back in his hometown, where he serves as pastor of Immaculate Conception, St. Rita and St. John the Evangelist churches, assisted by the Rev. Gerry Juarez.

WEDNESDAY: The five returnees elaborate on their hometown feelings and their hopes for Connellsville's future.

Laura Szepesi is a contributing writer.

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