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Octogenarian has worked in various spots at Westmoreland County Courthouse for over 30 years

Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Myrna McCloskey, 80, who retired once from the Westmoreland County Courthouse and now “floats” from office to office as she’s needed. She also helps with swearing-in and naturalization ceremonies, conducts courthouse tours, and will escort Pennsylvania Cable Network camera crews when they film there as part of a series featuring county courthouses across Pennsylvania in 2015.

Sunday, May 4, 2014, 10:20 p.m.
 

Myrna McCloskey is a familiar figure in the halls of the Westmoreland County Courthouse.

McCloskey, who seems to be on a first-name basis with everyone she passes, has worked there for decades.

The admitted shopaholic's stylish appearance makes her a true “fashionista,” said Kristina Rugh, an administrative aide for county Commissioner Tyler Courtney.

“Nobody believes she is the age she is,” Rugh said.

McCloskey, 80, tried retiring more than 10 years ago. After the death of her husband, David McCloskey, she returned to work, assigned to different offices on a part-time, as-needed basis.

“I started in 1979 as a secretary in the (former) public information office. I was filling in for someone on leave. I didn't know anything about politics. I was told, ‘We need you for three months.' She (the employee on leave) never came back. I never left,” McCloskey said, laughing.

She began her secretarial career with the Elliott Co. in Jeannette, staying for six years.

“I graduated from Jeannette High School with the Class of 1951 on a Friday, and I went to work on Monday,” McCloskey said.

Her engagement announcement was met with a pink slip, common for the times.

“I got married, and I had to leave. We were so stupid, we said, ‘Thank you,' and left,” McCloskey said.

The newlyweds settled in Hempfield's West Point, where she still resides.

“We had a starter home. It was small, and I filled it with (five) children,” she said.

As the last one entered school, she took a secretarial position with Austin Powder Co. on Pellis Road.

McCloskey went on an interview for what she thought was a cosmetics company. “It was explosives,” she said.

After working in a real estate office, she moved to the courthouse, where her career for the past 35 years has included posts in the now-closed media relations and information and referral departments.

“I'm the only survivor. They were stuck with me,” McClo-skey said.

Soon after her arrival, workers at the Westmoreland Manor county nursing home went on strike.

Courthouse staff rotated assignments at the Hempfield facility, performing previously unimaginable duties.

“I went from putting out information to putting out bedpans,” McCloskey said.

She worked with the Secret Service during a county visit from then-President Jimmy Carter and coordinated a Billy Graham trip during Operation Desert Storm.

McCloskey has long worked on the courthouse's ceremonial events, from swearing-in ceremonies for judges to naturalization services for new citizens.

She and Al Dettore, with whom McCloskey formerly worked in media relations, started a “take your child to work” event for county employees. “She's such a good liaison between myself and working with the other departments when it comes to ‘Child Government Day,' ” said Vera Spina, county chief clerk.

McCloskey remains a stalwart supporter of Jeannette. “In its heyday, there was nothing better,” she said.

She spends free time on movie and dinner outings, often with high school friends.

“The only reason I don't have a computer at home is I do not want to stay home,” she joked.

Her duties include conducting courthouse tours for school children and other visitors.

The four-story, granite building and its marble interior will be featured on the Pennsylvania Cable Network in 2015 as part of a series featuring county courthouses from across the state.

McCloskey will escort the camera crews.

Deborah Waller, the county's human resources associate director, said McCloskey's experience as an employee, and knowledge of courthouse and county history, is invaluable.

“She's a star, and she doesn't want to be. That's Myrna,” Waller said, laughing.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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