Harrison teacher gets to join AVH’s Stork Club on her birthday
Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series that features Alle-Kiski Valley residents and the notable things that they do.
Allegheny Valley Hospital and Linda Hartig Gibson are both marking milestones this year.
The Harrison hospital is celebrating its 110th anniversary with daily events this week.
Gibson, a retired Highlands School District teacher, is celebrating her 70th birthday.
Gibson was born at Allegheny Valley on May 6, 1949. She and her husband, Robert, live nearby.
So Gibson took notice when the hospital chose May 6 — her birthday — as the date to invite all who were born there to come and claim membership in the hospital’s “Stork Club.”
“I said, ‘Hey, that’s my birthday,’” Gibson said of the coincidence. “That’s pretty cool. It’s my birthday. My brother was born there. Everyone I know was born there.”
The obstetrics unit at Allegheny Valley Hospital closed in 2006. Changing demographics, including a lower birth rate, an aging population and an increase in high-risk pregnancies led to the decision, according to a book on the hospital’s 100th anniversary.
Gibson remembers the name of the doctor who delivered her — Dr. Hymel Fishkin.
“We went to him our whole lives,” she said. Fishkin died in 1993 at age 84.
Gibson’s brother, Walter Hartig, was born at Allegheny Valley on May 5, 1953. He now lives in Massachusetts.
Their parents, Charles and Dorothy Hartig, died at the hospital.
A 1967 graduate of Har-Brack High School, Gibson came back to teach at Highlands after getting a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Grove City College. She earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Pittsburgh in 1974.
“Since I was 3 years old, I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “Back in my day, you were either a teacher, a nurse or a secretary.”
She taught sixth grade for 35 years, starting at Heights Elementary, where a Sheetz now stands. She remembers there being 32 kids in the classes. In that school, she had the same students all day for every subject.
“It was a lot,” she said. But, “it was fun.”
She then moved to the district’s middle school, where she first taught sixth-grade English and, later, math. She retired in 2006.
“I felt very fortunate I was hired in the district I graduated from,” she said. “I didn’t think of going anywhere else. It never occurred to me.”
Gibson and her husband met in 1993 and they’ve been married since 1995. He volunteers at Allegheny Valley Hospital as a lobby escort. He was born at Allegheny Valley, too, on Aug. 14, 1951. He’ll be 68 this year.
Gibson said she volunteered in the hospital as a candy striper and in the coffee shop when she was in high school. But, lately, “I’ve been trying to stay out of it,” she said jokingly.
“It’s a family hospital. There’s not too many of them anymore,” she said.
“We’re very fortunate we still have a local hospital,” Robert said. “Hopefully, they can sustain it.”
While retired from teaching, Gibson has been volunteering for two years as a math tutor, helping prepare people for the high school equivalency test, or GED.
As a sixth-grade teacher, she had assumed everyone graduated.
“They don’t,” she said.
Tutoring has been gratifying for her. She had one student who had taken the math test five times before but who was able to pass it with her help and went on to a career in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).
“It was a huge turning point, to see them be able to get on with their lives,” she said. “It’s very endearing and it really does mean a lot. It’s so necessary. Without a GED, it’s very, very limiting.”
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .