Tarentum woman keeps history alive
Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series that features Alle-Kiski Valley residents and the notable things that they do.
Cindy Homburg’s Tarentum home is like a museum dedicated to the borough.
There are medicine and pop bottles made from long-closed glass factories, numerous framed photos and paintings, wooden cutouts of the Tarentum train station — when it was a still a train station — churches and other Tarentum landmarks.
Guitars and instruments from the former Basement Music store are in several rooms. She also has several copies of “The Quippus,” Tarentum High School yearbooks from multiple years.
“Everything means something,” the local history buff said. “We have a lot of history here in Tarentum.”
The wooden cutouts have historical tidbits written on the backs. They were made by the Friends of the Community Library of Allegheny Valley, which has branches in Tarentum and Harrison.
Basement Music was owned and operated by Homburg and her late husband, Al, a singer-guitarist and retired Brashear High School teacher in Beechview.
Homburg, 70, grew up in Valencia and graduated from Mars Area High School in 1967. She moved to Tarentum for work and to be closer to family in January 1972.
She worked for 13 years at the Gee Bee Department Store in Harrison. Her mother, Annabelle Painter, was a cheerleader and graduated from Tarentum High School.
“I knew people here because of visiting with cousins and stuff through the years,” Homburg said. “When I got here, I thought, ‘I really like this town.’ I just became involved in many different things through the years, and I like people. I’ve been a history buff all my life.”
She also developed a love of personal history and genealogy through her father, Clifton Kocher. The two would walk through cemeteries in Valencia and study tombstones to help learn about people.
“He would tell me all about the people who were buried there — who’s who and how they’re related to this one and that one and the other one.”
That passion would serve her well as Homburg was able to lead multiple historical tours of the borough over the years.
She was recently welcomed into the Daughters of the American Revolution’s General Richard Butler Chapter after obtaining documents and tracking her lineage to William Steele, a soldier in the war. He was Homburg’s fifth great-grandfather and died in 1805.
Homburg has compiled books of old photographs and death certificates to help other family members explore their genealogy.
“I just kept branching out and meeting all kinds of cool people that I was related to that I didn’t realize all these years,” she said.
Tarentum was settled in 1829 after the construction of the Pennsylvania Canal brought lots of people through the area along the Allegheny River. It was incorporated as a borough in 1842.
Homburg recently stepped down from the Tarentum recreation board, but remains on its planning commission.
She credits the late Robert Lucas, a 1956 Tarentum graduate and fellow history buff, with helping her obtain critical knowledge of the borough.
“This man was a fountain of information,” she said. “He taught me so much about Tarentum. He was amazing.”
Maintaining Prospect Cemetery
A visit to Prospect Cemetery in Brackenridge is part of her daily routine.
Homburg is president of the Prospect Cemetery Association, which maintains the plots, and recently planted a flower bed to increase aesthetics.
Prospect Cemetery was incorporated in 1863. It has more than 17,000 occupied plots over 13.5 acres, according to Homburg.
Among its occupants are 754 veterans who served in conflicts dating from the Revolutionary War to as recently as the Persian Gulf. The most, 256, are from the Civil War, followed by World War II (209) and World War I (196).
Homburg includes posts about the cemetery on her Facebook page, “Tarentum History With Cindy.”
The cemetery association needs volunteers. Anyone interested can call 724-224-4552.
Homburg said she “just goes like the Energizer bunny” and has no plans to slow down her genealogy work or preserving Tarentum’s history.
She’s driven by a mantra from her late husband.
“I always try to learn one new thing every day,” Homburg said. “I think that’s a good philosophy. If everybody would learn one new thing every day, we’d have more smart people around here.”
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .