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Brownsville remembers 'Slugger

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By Jerry Storey
Sunday, July 30, 2006

The late Marion Klingensmith is being remembered by the Brownsville High School Alumni Association at its annual banquet Friday.

It's not surprising that the group would pick Klingensmith, also known as "Slugger," given his careers as a middleweight prizefighter, Brownsville police chief and mayor, Pennsylvania state representative, Fayette County commissioner and Western Pennsylvania athletic commissioner.

"He certainly was an impressive character," said Conway Keibler, a former neighbor and a founder of the annual alumni banquet.

Add amateur filmmaker to the list of achievements. Klingensmith was an avid 8 mm camera buff -- something that comes as a surprise to Keibler and others who knew Klingensmith for decades.

"He took films all the time," said his wife, Lorne. "He had a camera every time he went out the door."

Klingensmith's son, Larry, said the footage taken by his dad adds up to veritable "tons of film."

Much of the footage was home movies of his family; Larry, for example, remembers being filmed at an Easter egg hunt.

But Klingensmith also filmed the community.

He recorded Brownsville celebrations and residents going about their lives in a bustling borough.

There's footage of a 1960s flood that inundated Brownsville. Larry cited scenes of rescuers in rowboats that bring to mind newscasts from Hurricane Katrina.

There were also historical snippets of such events as the opening of the Lane Bane Bridge and a visit to Brownsville by boxer Jersey Joe Wolcott.

The Brownsville Area Revitalization Corp. has spliced the footage together on a three-disc DVD set.

Larry said the filming was an extension of his father's personality of wanting to interact with people.

Keibler will talk about Klingensmith at the banquet. He said he has some funny stories to tell.

One is about the time his neighbor, then a police officer, stopped him for speeding.

Instead of letting him go, Klingensmith told Keibler, "You're the nicest guy I ever gave a ticket to."

In his later years, Klingensmith often gave out a calling card with the message "It's nice to be nice."

The alumni group also will honor five distinguished living graduates of Brownsville High School -- Douglas Dascenzo, who played baseball for the Chicago Cubs; Dennis Matteucci, a Brownsville-area businessman; Vanessa DeSalvo-Getz; and Vincent Caliutto, who was recognized by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the greatest drummers around.

The Community Cruise on the Monongahela, this year honoring the firefighters who protect Brownsville, will cast off on Tuesday. The alumni banquet is always held the day after Brownsville Kennywood Day, which is this Thursday.

The association will meet for a tour of the newly renovated Brownsville Area High School at 6 p.m. Friday; followed by a 6:30 p.m. social period; followed by the catered banquet at 7 p.m. in the school cafeteria.

The cost of the banquet is $10. Tickets can be purchased from Jene Bernhagen at Standard Auto Supply, 600 Market St.

Klingensmith's three-disc set can be purchased at the Flatiron Building for $25.

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