Donor, firefighters reward each other
Lifting her arms above her head, Eleanor Roehrig demonstrated the excitement and bravado she displayed during a recent Ferris wheel ride.
“I'm up there going ‘Woooh.' It was delightful,” said Roehrig, 88.
Before her July 11 ride above the borough of Youngwood, during the volunteer fire department's carnival, she hadn't been on a Ferris wheel for at least 10 years, Roehrig guessed.
Firefighters arranged the ride when meeting Roehrig while responding to a smoke alarm at the borough's Ridgeview Residential Care, where she is a resident.
Fire Chief Lloyd Crago said the incident in the facility's kitchen turned out to be minor.
“They got here fast,” Roehrig said.
“When I saw you in action, I said, ‘This is a terrific group of people. I'm going to see that they get something.' You are people who see that we have peace of mind,” she told Crago during a recent visit in her residence.
On Memorial Day, Roehrig presented the department with a check for $5,000.
“I thought it was sort of a joke at first,” said Crago, chief since 1988.
“I don't ever remember one donor giving that much at one time. We really appreciate it. We are always doing fundraising. Here is this lady that says, ‘Here, take this,' ” he said.
“I can't take it with me,” Roehrig quipped.
A former South Greensburg resident, Roehrig began working right out of high school in 1942 for the former Walworth Valves.
Women at the factory understood that their jobs would be reclaimed when men returned home from World War II, she said.
“One day, I was told, ‘Ellie, we don't need you any more,' ” Roehrig recalled.
She went to the Bell Telephone Co. office in Greensburg, tested for a position and started work the next day.
During the years, she was promoted to service representative and training positions.
“They saw things in me I did not know I had,” Roehrig said.
She earned a respectable salary and was provided an expense account, unusual for women at the time.
“That is probably one reason I never got married. They (men) probably did not think they could afford me,” she joked.
Her job could be disruptive, she said.
“I would be told, ‘We need you in Williamsport.' I didn't have a GPS,” she said, recalling winding, snow-covered roadways.
Her lack of a college degree kept her from being promoted to a district management position, she said.
But she enjoyed her life as a nomad.
During one assignment in Bradford, Pa., she and a group of friends spent Friday nights at a local hotel where an orchestra played.
They referred to their launch of the weekend as POETS, a ribald acronym for “(Expletive) On Everything, Tomorrow is Saturday,” she joked.
Roehrig retired from “Ma Bell” in 1980.
She and Crago, who appear to have formed a mutual fan club, talked about her decision to make what the department called on its website a “very generous donation.”
“We are always buying uniforms, replacing gear. This will make it a little bit easier,” Crago said.
A photo on the website shows Roehrig grinning on the Ferris wheel.
“When I said she was coming down for the carnival, everybody (firefighters) wanted to meet her,” Crago said.
Roehrig arranged the check presentation through Ridgeview employee Robin Long, whose husband Cliff Long is a Youngwood firefighter.
“I was determined. I knew I was going to do it and how much I wanted to give and I did it,” Roehrig said.
As Crago folded her into a goodbye hug, Roehrig beamed at a visitor.
“Do you get the feeling I enjoyed life? If I didn't, it is my own fault,” she said.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or firstname.lastname@example.org.