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Homer City banners honor local heroes

| Saturday, May 24, 2014, 5:12 p.m.
Betty Cipollini of Homer City, Indiana County, holds the banner she and her daughter purchased to honor her husband, Donald, a Marine veteran.
Betty Cipollini of Homer City, Indiana County, holds the banner she and her daughter purchased to honor her husband, Donald, a Marine veteran.
Betty Cipollini of Homer City, Indiana County, holds the banner she and her daughter purchased to honor her husband, Donald, a Marine veteran.
Betty Cipollini of Homer City, Indiana County, holds the banner she and her daughter purchased to honor her husband, Donald, a Marine veteran.

Betty Cipollini has joined other Homer City families with veterans in recognizing and honoring their service with banners that have been installed along Main Street in time for Memorial Day weekend.

“Veterans like my husband get thanked all the time for their service,” said Cipollini, 80, who lives in the Indiana County borough of about 1,700. “People come up to him and say, ‘Thank you.' They want to honor veterans.

“This is something on top of that. The banners are really nice. They look great hanging up,” she said.

Each of the 47 “Local Hero” banners honors a veteran. Each veteran's photograph has been processed into a digital, color image onto both sides of the vinyl banners, which are 5 feet high and 30 inches wide.

The banners include an American flag background, the veteran's name, branch and date of service, along with the name of the individual, family or organization that purchased it.

Participants in the program, coordinated by the Homer Center Historical Society, purchased the banners at the society's cost of $110.

Cipollini said she and her daughter, Susan, decided to honor two veterans in their family. Cipollini's husband, Donald, served in the Marines during the Korean War, and her late father, John C. Gonda, was an Army infantryman who fought in Germany in World War II.

Ted Predko's two sons have banners. Both served in the Navy.

“There is just a lot of pride in general for this,” said Predko, 77, of Center Township, Indiana County. “All the young people serving today — they're special. For both sons, I have a tremendous amount of pride.”

Predko's eldest son, Ted, 44, lives in San Diego and served in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan. He was an operations specialist and also served as an equal opportunity adviser. Mike Predko, of Seattle was a nuclear technician aboard the USS Truxton.

“For a small community such as Homer City and Center Township, I am very pleased,” said Heidi D. Watterson, 39, of Pittsburgh, adding that her family is honoring her brother, Matthew, who has served in the Army since 1991. Matthew Watterson, 43, of Texas is a chief warrant officer 4.

“I am proud to say that I come from a large family of veterans,” said Watterson, whose family lived on Main Street in Homer City for six years. “Both of my brothers, father, grandfather, uncle, great uncle and sister-in-law have a combined 70-plus years of service.

“As soon as I heard about the Homer Center Historical Society Local Hero Banner project, I knew instantly that I wanted to honor my brother Matthew because of all his years of military service, sacrifice and dedication. Being part of a family that has served three generations has given me the utmost respect for all military men and women.”

Denise Jennings-Doyle, banner program coordinator, said, “The number of banners has exceeded the number of useful telephone poles on Main Street. I was especially pleased that families have honored more than one member, showing the generational commitment to the armed forces.”

Jennings-Doyle said her family is honoring her late maternal great-uncle, Benjamin Borland, who grew up in Homer City and served as an Air Force gunner in the South Pacific.

A brief ceremony to dedicate the banners will be at 1 p.m. Monday along Main Street adjacent to the borough building.

“This Local Hero ceremony is our chance to remember, commemorate, and celebrate the service of our local veterans, both those who perished in battle and those who lived, moving on to have families, working and enriching our community,” Jennings-Doyle said.

Debbie Black is a contributing writer.

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