2017 — a year in review
Quaker Valley students organize Women's March
On the day of President Trump's inauguration, Friday, Jan. 20, Quaker Valley High School seniors Anissa Eckert (from left), Elizabeth Whalen and Emma Szuba led a two-mile walk from the Sewickley business district to the high school to spread the message of unity.
About 50 students, both male and female, as well as a handful of parents, joined Eckert, Whalen and Szuba as they chanted “United we stand, divided we fall, be an ally to us all” and “Equality means everyone” during what they dubbed the Women's March on QVHS.
“Equality is everyone's fight,” Szuba said as she thanked participants as they arrived at the high school.
The 2017 Women's March, a series of political rallies protesting President Trump and promoting women's rights, was held worldwide the next day.
Quaker Valley could be closer to new HS
Quaker Valley School District leaders could be one step closer to a new high school.
In October, leaders approved a bond resolution that will allow the district to borrow $10 million to fund the possible purchase of a 128-acre site off Camp Meeting Road for the construction of a new high school.
“Approving the $10 million financing now, before Jan. 1, allows the district to get better rates and a bank qualified loan, which will save the district hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of the loan,” Superintendent Heidi Ondek said in October.
Board members entered a $7.5 million sales agreement this summer to purchase four properties in Leet, Edgeworth and Leetsdale, that Three Rivers Trust previously had purchased with plans to build a home and farm. That plan later was moved to land in Washington County.
Under the sales agreement, Quaker Valley board members had until Dec. 27 to decide if they want to move forward with the purchase. The Sewickley Herald's print deadline occurred prior to that date.
The need for a new high school is evident, Ondek said, pointing to the uniform classroom sizes that don't allow for the variety of lessons in today's high schools.
There is “no amount of modernization” that would allow district leaders to transform the current high school, built in 1929 on 13.98 acres, into the educational facility that is needed, she said. The school also has past water issues and trouble with students not being able to park close to the school. District leaders have said they want a school that offers easy handicap accessibility.
The Tull Family Theater opens
The long-awaited Tull Family Theater opened to the public Feb. 17 showing “La La Land,” “The Eagle Huntress” and “Fences.” It would be the first movie theater in Sewickley in more than 30 years.
The two-screen theater was named for Thomas and Alba Tull who sponsored the naming rights with a $500,000 donation.
Land trust seeks to add 70 acres
Allegheny Land Trust this year announced a plan to raise money to purchase and protect 70 acres in the Big Sewickley Creek and Little Sewickley Creek watersheds.
With pending state grants, the land trust sought to raise about $250,000 from the surrounding neighborhoods and communities to raise the remaining amount in order to close on the land by the end of 2017.
“We've done this a number of times and it seems that (the support) depends on what community we are working in,” Roy Kraynyk, the vice president of land and capital projects for the land trust said at the time. “People don't want to lose what they already have.”
Army captain surprises daughter
Osborne Elementary second-grader Imogen Nowak was surprised by her father, U.S. Army captain Eric Nowak, during an assembly at the school March 28. Imogen was told that her father wouldn't be returning home from a seven-month deployment overseas until mid-April.
“I was just kind of thinking about what her reaction was going to be … because she obviously had no idea,” Erik Nowak said. “Up until then I really wasn't sure we had pulled it off until right then. Listening to her speak, I could tell that, yeah, she had no idea.”
Animal Friends opens new center
The new Howard Ash Animal Wellness Center at Animal Friends opened in September.
The center was named for Howard Ash, who volunteered at Animal Friends just over 20 years ago. Ash began as a dog walker, became a cat fosterer and served as both a finance member and a board member. “This building does all of the things I wanted Animal Friends to do when I was on the board,” Ash said at the time. “I've always been a big advocate for spay/neuter, vaccinations and humane investigations, so to have my name on the building — it's exciting for me, for Pittsburgh, and for Animal Friends.”
The wellness center will offer low-cost spay/neuter and vaccine services to dogs, cats and rabbits. Wellness services also will be provided.
“Annually, we spay and neuter 10,000 dogs, cats, and rabbits,” Animal Friends spokeswoman Shannon Tremblay said at the time. “But next year, with the Howard Ash Wellness Center, we'll complete 15,000.”
Quaker Valley holds last graduation at RMU's Sewall Center
Quaker Valley, which has been holding their commencement ceremonies at Robert Morris University's Charles L. Sewall Center for the last 13 years, had their final graduation at the Moon facility June 5. The Sewall Center, which opened in 1985, was torn down this fall to make room for the UPMC Events Center, which is slated to open in January 2019. Quaker Valley's 2018 graduation ceremony will be held at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland. It is unclear where the school will hold them once construction is completed on Robert Morris University's new events center.
Parking, parking, parking
From new pay stations, increased prices the removal of the old meters, to broken equipment and adjusting policies, Sewickley saw changes to its public parking.
The cost for one hour of parking within the central business district jumped to $1 — an increase of 50 cents. Cost for long-term spots increased to $2 for an eight-hour day. Tickets increased to $10 — from $5. Fines double after 96 hours.
Forty machines replaced nearly 500 meters in March. Many of the machines were plagued with issues over the year. The changes also saw the addition of an app that lets people pay using their mobile device.
In 2016, the Sewickley Parking Authority awarded a roughly $422,000 contract to PSX that overhauled the borough's public parking system.
In December, with support from the Sewickley Valley Chamber of Commerce, parking was free.
Stanley stops in Sewickley
Employees at several Sewickley businesses got a huge surprise June 12 when Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby stopped by Safran's Supermarket and Rite-Aid, among other places, with the Stanley Cup just one day after the Pens defeated the Nashville Predators in Nashville.
Bellevue garden wins grant
North Hills Community Outreach's Rosalinda Sauro Sirianni Garden in Bellevue received a $30,000 grant this year through the 2017 Seeds of Change Grant Program. The grant allowed the organic garden, which provides fresh produce for clients of the organization's three food pantries, to get a more efficient irrigation system, a new lawn mower and supplies for educational programs. The organization services the North Hills and Sewickley Valley communities.
“I was very happy and maybe a little surprised (to learn the garden won the competition) because there were so many applicants,” said Alyssa Crawford, garden and youth coordinator for North Hills Community Outreach.
Almost 600 community and school gardens participated in the grant competition this year, according to Seeds of Change, an organic-seed company based in southern California.
Bell Acres transgender man shares story
Carter James Heath said he's come a long way emotionally since first scribbling a note to a therapist saying he identified as being transgender.
“I don't even look at myself as I'm trans,” he said earlier this year. “I don't look at myself any differently (than other men).”
C.J., as he is known, was designated as female at birth.
“Some have said, ‘He can live his life and still be happy. Why does he have to go through surgeries and go through all of that?' In a way, I can understand, but at the same time, just be who you want to be,” his mother, Athena Heath, said. “After you give birth to a child and you go through all of that, that's the hard part. There's times that I feel he doesn't want to accept that mom's actually trying. But it's difficult.
“Yes, I asked God for my strawberry blond, green-eyed little girl. I had (C.J.'s birth name — Cassandra Lynn) picked out ever since I was 16.”
In June, nearly two years after he began hormone therapy, C.J. Heath completed a gender-reassignment surgery for chest reconstruction.
Changes at historical society
Longtime Sewickley Valley Historical Society Executive Director Harton Semple returned to his familiar post.
In a June vote, members of the historic preservation group voted in new board leadership during annual elections, after the previous board fired Semple. Semple was elected president of the board of directors. He returned to his previous role as a volunteer director — answering calls and replying to inquiries part-time, which he has done at the society for more than a decade.
“When there is a threat from deviation of our mission, then there are contested elections. A new board is now in charge,” Semple said at the time. “We are always trying to increase our footprint and to do more.”
Quaker Valley football makes history
It was incredible enough to be the plot of a movie.
A high school football team's coach quits 18 days before the season, so a former coach comes out of retirement for one season. The team then goes on to win its first ever WPIAL title, beating Aliquippa, 2-0 — the only points of the game coming from a second-quarter safety.
But they didn't stop there.
Three weeks later, Quaker Valley defeated Middletown, 41-24, in the PIAA Class 3A championship in Hershey.
“I want to know what one of you guys is going to help me write my screenplay?” coach Jerry Veshio said as his players celebrated in the snow at Hersheypark Stadium, some drawing QV on the snowy turf with their feet.
“It's surreal,” Veshio said at the time. “It's incredible.”
B.G. Shields dies
Longtime Sewickley Herald editor and founder of the Sewickley Valley Historical Society, Betty G.Y. Shields, died July 12 after a long illness. She was 92.
B.G. was the wife of Daniel Leet Shields of Edgeworth, whom she married in 1953.
She joined the Herald staff in 1970 as the paper's society editor. B.G. became Herald editor in 1972 and continued in the position to 1987. While at the Herald, B.G. began the Man and Woman of the Year honor, which has continued for more than 40 years in the Sewickley Valley.
She founded the historical society in 1973. After retiring from the Herald, B.G. became the executive director of the historical society — a position she held until 2005, when she moved to Lemont, Pa.
In addition, B.G. was a founding member of the Little Sewickley Creek Watershed Association.
Homecoming king crowned at QV
For the first time in school history, Quaker Valley High School crowned a homecoming king.
The school's first homecoming king was Ryan Weicht.
Students pushed for changes to tradition to allow for more inclusion.
In the past, Quaker Valley crowned only a homecoming queen and girls, at times, felt pressure to find a date to walk them across the football field for the big day, senior Rachel Rock said at the time.
“We said, ‘What can we do to change the way this is and make everyone feel more included?'” Rock said.
Students approached Principal Deborah Riccobelli, who worked with athletic director Mike Mastroianni, to form a committee of students who sought to address the issue.
“They didn't feel like our previous process honored who the students were,” Riccobelli said at the time. “They wanted to honor the tradition of homecoming, yet something that was more inclusive … that a wider variety of students were represented in — not just the popular kids.”
Presbyterian Church choir trip
The Chancel Choir at Sewickley Presbyterian Church was one of six church choirs representing the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) that the Presbyterian Association of Musicians invited to participate in Reformation 500 activities in Scotland this summer. The trip took place from July 29 to Aug. 6. Twenty people with ties to the choir went.
The concert was part of the famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe, church music ministries director Craig Dobbins said.
“We were amazed, when we got to Edinburgh, looking through the (festival) catalog of performances — there it was,” he said.
The local choir members also performed at St. Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh, the Mother Church of Presbyterianism, part of which dates to the Middle Ages, and at historic Holy Trinity Church in St. Andrews.
In addition to staffers Bobby Cherry and Kristina Serafini, the following writers contributed: Matthew Peaslee, Vince Russo, Madelyn Dinnerstein, Rebecca Ferraro, Stephanie Hacke, Larissa Dudkiewicz, Kimberly Palmiero, Matt Grubba, Chris Harlan.